Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Movies: an Opportunity for Empathy

Perhaps the best known film critic of his time, Roger Ebert died this year on April 4, 2013 of thyroid cancer. Had he lived he would have been seventy-one years old today. Writing from the Chicago Sun Times, and syndicated in more than two hundred newspapers, he was the first movie critic to win the Pulitzer Prize. His TV show on public television At the Movies with rival critic Gene Siskel became a template for dialogue for future TV productions.

In 2005 he received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and said this:

Movies are the most powerful empathy machine of all the arts. When I go to a great movie I can live somebody else’s life. A little bit, for a while, I can walk in somebody else’s shoes. I can see what it feels like to be a member of a different gender, a different race, a different economic class, to live in a different time, to have a different belief. 

I couldn’t help but think how psychoanalytic work allows the same opportunity. Analysts are privileged to hear the inner most workings of the human soul, its lofty spirit and it heinous or heroic reactions to the slings and arrows of misfortune. A lover of film, literature, and theater, I know all these media pale compared to the privileged observer-participant role of the psychoanalyst. Still, I continue to have a love affair with the movies. Thanks, Roger, for adding when I was a girl, the critical dimension to so many beloved movies. I remember you today.

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