Sigmund Freud Appears in Rare, Surviving Video & Audio Recorded During the 1930s

Sigmund Freud

What, I won­der, would Sig­mund Freud have made of Han­ni­bal Lec­tor? The fic­tion­al psy­cho­an­a­lyst, so sophis­ti­cat­ed and in con­trol, moon­light­ing as a blood­thirsty can­ni­bal… a per­fect­ly grim rejoin­der to Freud’s ideas about humankind’s per­pet­u­al dis­con­tent with the painful repres­sion of our dark­est, most anti­so­cial dri­ves. While Freud’s pri­ma­ry taboo was incest, not can­ni­bal­ism, I’m sure he would have appre­ci­at­ed the irony of an ultra-civ­i­lized psy­chi­a­trist who gives full steam to his most pri­mal urges.

Freud—who was born on this day in 1856, in the small town of Freiberg—also had a care­ful­ly con­trolled image, though his pas­sion­ate avo­ca­tion was not for the macabre, sala­cious, or pruri­ent, but for the archae­o­log­i­cal. He once remarked that he read more on that sub­ject than on his own, an exag­ger­a­tion, most like­ly, but an indi­ca­tion of just how much his inter­est in cul­tur­al arti­facts and rit­u­al con­tributed to his the­o­ret­i­cal expli­ca­tion of indi­vid­ual and social psy­chol­o­gy.

In the film above, we see Freud in con­ver­sa­tion with a friend, a pro­fes­sor of archae­ol­o­gy, whom the psy­chi­a­trist con­sult­ed on his exten­sive col­lec­tion of antiq­ui­ties. Lat­er, we see Freud with his dog, then reclin­ing out­doors with a book. Over this footage we hear the nar­ra­tion of Freud’s daugh­ter Anna, who only allowed this film to be viewed by a small cir­cle until her death in 1982.

Though Freud lived many decades into the era of record­ing tech­nol­o­gy, pre­cious lit­tle film and audio of the founder of psy­cho­analy­sis exists. While the home movies at the top may be the only mov­ing image of him, per­haps the only audio record­ing of his voice, above, was made in 1938, the year before his death. At 81 years old, Freud’s advanced jaw can­cer left him in con­sid­er­able tor­ment. Nonethe­less, he agreed to record this brief mes­sage for the BBC from his Lon­don home in Mares­field Gar­dens. Read a tran­script of the speech, and see Freud’s hand­writ­ten copy, below.

I start­ed my pro­fes­sion­al activ­i­ty as a neu­rol­o­gist try­ing to bring relief to my neu­rot­ic patients. Under the influ­ence of an old­er friend and by my own efforts, I dis­cov­ered some impor­tant new facts about the uncon­scious in psy­chic life, the role of instinc­tu­al urges, and so on. Out of these find­ings grew a new sci­ence, psy­cho­analy­sis, a part of psy­chol­o­gy, and a new method of treat­ment of the neu­roses. I had to pay heav­i­ly for this bit of good luck. Peo­ple did not believe in my facts and thought my the­o­ries unsa­vory. Resis­tance was strong and unre­lent­ing. In the end I suc­ceed­ed in acquir­ing pupils and build­ing up an Inter­na­tion­al Psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic Asso­ci­a­tion. But the strug­gle is not yet over.  –Sig­mund Freud.



The Library of Con­gress online exhib­it Sig­mund Freud: Con­flict & Cul­ture has many more pri­ma­ry doc­u­ments includ­ing a holo­graph page from Freud’s man­u­script of Civ­i­liza­tion and its Dis­con­tents, in which he the­o­rized the bedrock impulse of ser­i­al killers, fic­tion­al and real: the so-called “Death Dri­ve,” our “human instinct of aggres­sion and self-destruc­tion.”

Many impor­tant texts by Freud can be found in our col­lec­tion, 600 Free eBooks for the iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices. And you’ll inevitably find a few cours­es cov­er­ing Freud’s thought in our col­lec­tion of Free Online Psy­chol­o­gy Cours­es, part of our list of 950 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How a Young Sig­mund Freud Researched & Got Addict­ed to Cocaine, the New “Mir­a­cle Drug,” in 1894

Jean-Paul Sartre Writes a Script for John Huston’s Film on Freud (1958)

Free Online Psy­chol­o­gy & Neu­ro­science Cours­es

Down­load Sig­mund Freud’s Great Works as Free eBooks & Free Audio Books: A Dig­i­tal Cel­e­bra­tion on His 160th Birth­day

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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