Monday, January 25, 2010

Pocket notebook sighting: Spellbound

[Drs. Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) and Alex Brulov (Michael Chekhov) penetrate the labyrinth of the guilt complex.]

Dr. Petersen’s pocket notebook holds the details of a dream reported by her amnesic patient John Ballantyne (Gregory Peck). That dream in turn holds the secrets of Ballantyne’s identity and his guilt complex.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945) is oddly satisfying. The episodes of dream interpretation and psychiatric diagnosis now play like parody. The film’s presentation of psychiatry as the talking cure clashes absurdly with a casual recommendation of a few days’ drugs for one patient, unexplained surgery (lobotomy?) for another. What saves the movie is Bergman and Peck’s plausible chemistry, as Dr. Petersen, hitherto devoted to her work, finds herself falling in love with a man equally smitten. Their ardor leads though to dialogue like this:

Ballantyne: Professor, I never quite realized in my amnesic state how lovely you are.

Petersen: Oh, now that you got your head back, you mustn’t lose it again.

Ballantyne: Oh, no. It’s too late. I’m beyond cure.
Michael Chekhov, as Dr. Petersen’s mentor, has the film’s best line: “And remember what I say — any husband of Constance is a husband of mine, so to speak.”

More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces
Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne
Journal d’un curé de campagne
The House on 92nd Street
The Palm Beach Story
Pickup on South Street
Red-Headed Woman
The Sopranos

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