Pity Sigmund Freud. Dubbed “history’s most debunked doctor” by
Newsweek last year and forever known as the Oedipal complex guy, Freud could use an image makeover. Enter Joaquín Oristrell’s Unconscious. The comedy, set in 1913 buttoned-up Barcelona, just as psychoanalysis is emerging in Europe, gives Sigmund his due. After an eye-opening trip to see Freud in Vienna, psychiatrist Leon Pardo abandons his wife Alma in her ninth month of pregnancy. A determined, independent woman, Alma goes after her husband, embarking on a comic romp through the sexual underbelly of the city—uncovering a pornography ring, dancing with transvestites, slipping on soap, and, of course, falling in love. The English subtitles of the Spanish film are questionable: A section titled “Envidia del Pene” (penis envy) is for some reason translated as “Life Is Full of Surprises.” Nevertheless, the movie’s message is clear: Freud’s greatest contribution to society was not the idea that all little boys long to sleep with their mothers—rather, it’s the concept of the unconscious, a hidden place where our secret desires yearn to be free.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 30, 2007