Hitchcock + Freud = Dali (Apparently)

“…and then a girl came in with hardly anything on and started walking around the gambling room kissing everybody.”

Man, talk about a hot dream. Ingrid Bergman, long legs on full display in a short dress, pads barefoot through a casino—a very bizarre casino, backdropped by lush, drapy curtains with giant eyeballs painted all over them—and plants one on Gregory Peck. This brief flash of romance kicks off the four most famous minutes of Spellbound, Alfred Hitchcock’s clumsy, campy ode to the hilariously quacky world of 1940s-era psychoanalysis. It’s next up at the Riverview Theater’s ongoing Minneapolis Hitchcock Festival.

The film itself is forgettable. (Beautiful psychoanalyst Bergman falls for patient Peck, an amnesia sufferer wrongly accused of murder, and decides to help him clear his name.) But this dream sequence is not. It was designed by Salvadore Dali. Yes, that Salvadore Dali. The famed Surrealist was brought in to depict several scenes of mental delusion for the film, but Peck’s trippy excursion through the gambling house was the only one to make the final cut. (And if Hollywood lore is to be believed, it was a major cut indeed; Dali’s original dream sequence apparently dragged on for 20 minutes). There are giant scissors. A faceless casino owner. Blank playing cards. A man falling off a building.   

Basically, it’s big, goofy, screamingly-obvious dream symbolism. And from our post-Freudian perspective, it’s quite a hoot. The story goes that the film’s director, David O. Selznick (Gone With the Wind), had recently had a life-changing experience with psychoanalysis and demanded that Hitchcock, under contract with Selznick at the time, make a film praising the field. Selznick even brought in his own shrink, Dr. May Romm, as a technical adviser.

Hitchcock hated Selznick, and the results show in the sloppy, plot hole-ridden film. But the Dali sequence is significant, both artistically and culturally; for many audience members, it was their first exposure to dream analysis.

Imagine that: Ingrid Bergman as your shrink and Salvadore Dali directing your dreams. Only in the movies.

Spellbound
Monday, May 7, 7 p.m.
Riverview Theater, 3800 42nd Ave. S., Mpls. riverviewtheater.com

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