There are many wonderful films and videos available that plumb the depths of the psyche, whether they tell stories about what it is to be human, illustrate or embody an archetype, or show us something about the individuation process.
Here’s a list of films I’ve found captivating, along with those recommended by others interested in depth psychology. Please send recommendations of your personal favorites using the form at the bottom of the page.
A Room with a View (1985) Authors: E.M. Forster (novel), Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (screenplay) When Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) and chaperone Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith) find themselves in Florence with rooms without views, fellow guests Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliott) and son George (Julian Sands) step in to remedy the situation. Once she is back in England, how will Lucy’s experiences in Tuscany affect her marriage plans to her humorless, stodgy fiancé Cecil (Daniel Day Lewis)? Will she follow through with the marriage, or follow her heart and her growing attraction to the spirited George?
This is one of my favorite films about becoming conscious. It is not only visually perfect, but also feeds the soul. The musical score is breathtaking.
The Color Purple (1985) Written by Alice Walker, produced by Steven Spielberg. Possibly my favorite film of all time, it was a testimony to the modern American mindset that at its release, viewers loved this film but Hollywood refused to award it even one Oscar. Though it was nominated in eleven categories, nominations didn’t include one for Steven Spielberg’s directing. Beautiful and breathtaking, it is a new classic about coming of age and becoming whole by telling the story of Celie Johnson, a young African American woman living in the early 1900s.
Enchanted April (1991) About individuation and becoming conscious, Enchanted April is a quite beautiful award-winning film. Four women rent an Italian chateau and try to come to grips with their lives and relationships, exploring the differences in their personalities (and personas), reassessing their goals, and examining their relationships in a sisterly fashion. This slow-paced gem is about the civilizing influence of Italy on these beleaguered Londoners both male and female, and has its own civilizing influence on the viewer. It’s almost like taking a mini-trip to Italy, a gorgeously filmed enchantment.
The 400 Blows / Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959) François Truffaut’s first film. One IMDb reviewer wrote, “This film is one of the greatest I have ever seen. It depicts some events in the life of Antoine Doinel, a young French boy who gets into a lot of trouble no matter what he does. [. . .] it is filmed with such an innocence that you can really feel some of the emotions that Antoine feels. I love the simple style of this film, and I think it adds to its charm. The story can be painful to watch as one sees all of the things that happen to Antoine.” As with all coming-of-age films, it speaks deeply to the aspects of Self that are becoming emergent.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) Needing extra cash, two brothers conspire to pull off the perfect, victimless crime. No guns, no violence, no problem. But when an accomplice ignores the rules and crosses the line, his actions trigger a series of events in which no one is left unscathed. An excellent film depicting what can happen when the Shadow takes control.
Stranger Than Fiction (2006) Directed by Marc Forster, written by Zach Helm. Everybody knows that your life is a story, but what if a story was your life? Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is your average IRS agent: monotonous, boring, and repetitive. But everything changes when Harold begins hearing a disembodied voice narrating his life as it happens–a narration that reads like a book in which he, the main character, will soon die. Now Harold must find the author (Emma Thompson) of the story, and ultimately his life, to convince her to change the ending of the story before it is too late. Also starring Queen Latifah, Dustin Hoffman, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, this film does not fail to disappoint.
Lars and the Real Girl (2007) Lars (Ryan Gosling) is an awkwardly shy young man in a small nothern town who finally brings the girl of his dreams to his brother and sister-in-law’s home. The only problem is that she’s not real–she’s a sex doll Lars ordered off the internet. However, sex isn’t what Lars has in mind, but rather a deep, meaningful relationship with the new woman in his life. His sister-in-law is worried for him, his brother thinks he’s nuts, but eventually the entire town goes along with his delusion in support of this sweet-natured young man they’ve always loved.
Mr. Brooks (2007) This is another film about the shadow, in which Kevin Costner plays the persona and William Hurt the shadow archetype masterfully. This film is creepy, for the shadow personified is a force to be reckoned with. Interesting, too, that the movie poster for Mr. Brooks and that for Persona (the Ingmar Bergman film below) are so similar. Coincidence? I think not.
Persona (1966) Ingmar Bergman, writer and director. A young nurse named Alma (Bibi Andersson) and her patient, well-known stage actress Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann) move into a cottage together where soon the personalities of the two begin to merge. Psychological themes of personal identity, duality, and insanity are explored. Many critics have identified the theme as Jung’s idea of the persona.
Through a Glass Darkly (1961) Recently released from a mental hospital, Karin rejoins her emotionally disconnected family in their island home. The film depicts how Karin’s grip on reality slowly slips away and how the bonds between the family members change as a result.
What the Bleep Do We Know!? (2004) An independent little sleeper, this film turned out to be one of the most interesting and widely-acclaimed of 2004. Critics hated it, but audiences loved it. Part documentary, part story, and part visual effects and animations, it tells the story of Amanda (Marlee Matlin), who finds herself in an Alice in Wonderland experience when her everyday reality gives way to an uncertain quantum field she encounters. Thus begins an odyssey plunging her into crisis, seeking, and self-realization.
Recommended by the St. Louis, MO Jungian Coterie
The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1998) This film is funny, quirky, family-friendly, and very much about the persona. In East L.A., con man Gomez convinces four strangers to pool their money to buy a luminescent vanilla ice-cream-colored he has fallen in love with. If his plan is successful, he’ll split for El Paso, Texas well-dressed. The first night after the group pools their money, each wears the suit for an hour. Each is transformed: Dominguez with his guitar and voice charms women who dance in a parade through the plaza; Martinez’s shine gets his lovely neighbor’s attention; street poet Villanazul captures a crowd with his political and economic vision for the city’s east side. The suit also makes Gomez a better man, so he may not bolt–but then, what do they do with the last partner, the filthy ¡Vamanos!, whose juicy, taco-eating, wine-drinking habits could ruin the suit?
Recommended by the St. Louis, MO Jungian Coterie
Being Human (1994) Being Human follows the journey of one human soul named Hector (Robin Williams), who gets the chance to live five separate lives through different periods of history. He is reincarnated as a Celt, a Roman slave, a Scottish crusader, a man shipwrecked in Africa and a modern-day New Yorker. And, though the same souls keep popping up around him, including his lover and his children, Hector makes the same mistakes over and over again. But it is through these many trials and errors that Hector learns what it truly means to be human.