Psychoanalyst Harvey Giesbrecht sees the world through a Freudian conflict model and he’s sharing his view with others.
After Friday night’s screening of Adaptation, the popular film version of Susan Orlean’s bestseller book The Orchid Thief, Giesbrecht gave a half-hour talk on the themes of passion, conflict, and adaptive behaviour.
The event, held at Concordia’s De Seve Cinema, was part of a weekly series of movies and discussions hosted by the Quebec English chapter of the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society, of which Giesbrecht is a member.
“Adaptation is a rather clever movie,” Giesbrecht said, explaining the complex connections between the versions of the book and the movie.
The book was a sprawling, intellectual look at “orchidomania,” the fanatical obsession with orchids that many collectors share. The protagonist is a collector caught stealing rare orchids with the intent of cloning them for sale.
The script alternates between his story and historical pieces tracking the hobby through the last few hundred years.
The movie was a self-reflective piece about the struggle the screenwriter had in adapting the book into a movie. The protagonist is the screenwriter, a self-loathing intellectual who struggles with a viscerally human twin brother, invented for the purposes of the movie.
The attempt to produce a decent script forced the movie into a spiral of drugs, sex, and murder.
Giesbrecht spoke about the script’s literal treatment of the central issues, comparing them to the book’s oblique references.
The “subtextual violence,” he said, “was translated into the shoot-out” at the end of the film. In contrast, the overtly sexual affair between the author and the orchid thief presented in the film is a translation of “the sexual nature of orchids,” Giesbrecht said.
These flowers were once considered so erotic “that Victorian women were forbidden from collecting them,” he said.
Giesbrecht opened the floor to questions after his talk, but, after technical difficulties, which the organizers admitted to only grudgingly, he received only competing analysis.
Some people in the crowd generated a string of comments, which drew parallels between the film’s alleged Freudian conflicts and everything from pop music to the war in Iraq.
Giesbrecht responded favourably, referring to a psychoanalytic movement that developed after Freud, “which focused more on the ego.”
This movement postulated the existence of a “conflict-free zone” in the ego, which Giesbrecht refuted, saying that this conflict-free zone had not manifested itself in our society.
After all, he said, “I think we all feel less certain than ever before that the human species will survive.”
Giesbrecht also seemed content with the analogies he had presented between the process of change through psychoanalysis and the ordeal of the film’s protagonist.
“The price of insight and understanding, is in some ways not measurable,” he said.