Cinema as Therapy
Grief and transformational film
Routledge – 2015 – 228 pages
Loss is an inescapable reality of life, and individuals need to develop a capacity to grieve in order to mature and live life to the full. Yet most western movie audiences live in cultures that do not value this necessary process and filmgoers finding themselves deeply moved by a particular film are often left wondering why. In Cinema as Therapy, John Izod and Joanna Dovalis set out to fill a gap in work on the conjunction of grief, therapy and cinema.
Looking at films including Million Dollar Baby, The Son’s Room, Birth and The Tree of Life, Cinema as Therapy offers an understanding of how deeply emotional life can be stirred at the movies. Izod and Dovalis note that cinema is a medium which engages people in a virtual dialogue with their own and their culture’s unconscious, more deeply than is commonly thought. By analysing the meaning of each film and the root cause of the particular losses featured, the authors demonstrate how our experiences in the movie theatre create an opportunity to prepare psychologically for the inevitable losses we must all eventually face. In recognising that the movie theatre shares symbolic features with both the church and the therapy room, the reader sees how it becomes a sacred space where people can encounter the archetypal and ease personal suffering through laughter or tears, without inhibition or fear, to reach a deeper understanding of themselves.
Cinema as Therapy will be essential reading for therapists, students and academics working in film studies and looking to engage with psychological studies in depth as well as filmgoers who want to explore their relationship with the screen. The book includes a glossary of Jungian and Freudian terms which enhances the clarity of the text and the understanding of the reader.
‘In this remarkable and luminous book, Izod and Dovalis reveal something never previously so urgently expressed about cinema and psyche; that the study of one needs the study of the other, if the modern soul is not to suffer serious neglect. Cinema as Therapy: grief and transformational film traces in works as diverse as Million Dollar Baby, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Trois Couleurs trilogy and Tree of Life, patterns that invoke deep psychic structures to confront the paralysing human condition of grief, loss and death. The result is a book that shows film as a necessary processing of trauma into transformation; film leads us to the sacred and to becoming whole.’ - Susan Rowland PhD, Pacifica Graduate Institute, USA.
‘Izod and Dovalis sensitively detail the capacity of film to reveal the displacement and repression of grief, the isolation of loss, and the various stages of surrendering the loved object. In Cinema as Therapy we engage with those who inhabit the liminal spaces of grieving and memory – we follow their submission and emergence. This is a book for those who appreciate how screen stories can tap into both our deepest uncertainties and the resilience that protectively shadows us.' - Terrie Waddell, La Trobe University, Australia.
'This book is a vital step forward for the movement of arts therapy in the dealing of trauma and grief. [It] succeeds in its intention to encourage people to explore psychological depth in film. […] Fundamentally, the authors of Cinema as Therapy reinforce and empower the intrinsic belief which we sometimes still find difficult to realise, that truly, we all have the power in us to change our own lives.' - Dr Eunan McCreesh, UK.
Introduction. Part One. Birth. Tsotsi. Million Dollar Baby. Part 2. Trois Couleurs: Bleu. Trois Couleurs: Blanc. Trois Couleurs: Rouge. Part 3. The Son’s Room. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring. Morvern Callar. Approaching the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life. Envoi. Glossary. References. Index.
John Izod is Emeritus Professor of screen analysis at the University of Stirling. He has published several books, including Screen, Culture, Psyche: A Post-Jungian Approach to Working with the Audience (Routledge).
Joanna Dovalis is a marriage and family therapist with a doctorate in clinical psychology, specialising in grief work. She works in private practice in southern California, USA.