Weltanschauungen: Reflections on ‘Freud’s Last Session’

Brad Miner | February 27, 2024

As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a Den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep: and, as I slept, I dreamed a dream. – Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (1678)

Freud’s Last Session, a recent film directed by Matthew Brown, is based upon the play by Mark St. Germain who wrote the film’s screenplay with Mr. Brown. Both film and play had their genesis in a book by Armand Nicholi: The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. Dr. Nicholi, a psychiatrist, had for years taught a popular course at Harvard on just that subject, engaging students in the conflict between the secular and the religious, contrasting two powerful human emotions, despair and hope.

As the movie begins, we see images of antisemitism, and of Jews and other religious figures, including Jesus – from the Shroud of Turin. We enter the den in Freud’s London house, which is filled with artifacts, including effigies of ancient deities, almost a museum, one might say, of totems and taboos.

Freud (played by Anthony Hopkins) has invited Lewis (Matthew Goode) to his London home to discuss religious belief, something Freud rejects as childish fantasy. Of course, the encounter devolves into a therapy session with the twist that each man takes a crack at finding chinks in the other’s psycho-philosophical armor.

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