Intricate scenario by Charles Kaufman and producer Reinhardt, from the former’s story, translates into dramatic, not biographical, terms the events of five key years (1885-90) in Freud’s life, the years during which he formulated his principal theory – that sexual instinct is the basic one in the human personality – and led him to discover and describe the presence of sexual behavior even in infancy.
The drama revolves around Freud’s (Montgomery Clift) treatment of a young patient (Susannah York) who has broken down mentally and physically upon the death of her father. In treating her, and relating her neuroses to his own, he is able not only to cure her, but to formulate the Oedipus Complex theory – the child’s fixation on the parent of the opposite sex. This is the dramatic nucleus of the film.
The appropriately bewhiskered Clift delivers an intense, compassionate and convincing personification of Freud. York is vivid and true as his agitated patient, although the character is not always in sharp focus. Larry Parks etches a warm and appealing portrait of Freud’s friend, colleague and associate. Susan Kohner is fine as Freud’s understanding wife. Among the supporting players, Eric Portman stands out with a crisp, biting enactment of Freud’s orthodox superior who reveals the contradictory nature of his inner personality only when he is dying.
1962: Nominations: Best Original Story & Screenplay, Original Music Score