European Cinema and the exploration of the Human Psyche

Home/ European Cinema and the exploration of the Human Psyche
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSOL2EN3344

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon semester 2019

Course Coordinator and Team: Diamond Oberoi Vahali

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: Interest in psychoanalysis and cinema

Course Objectives/Description: This course will deal with films from the early twentieth century till the nineteen eighties. The course looks at how European cinema has deep connections with the human psyche and how it has engaged with the invisible undercurrents that govern and shape our existence in very subtle modes, beyond the realm of the comprehensible.

The course will undertake an in-depth analysis of the selected films. Besides screening the films, the course will analyze special selected shots and will undertake detailed discussions regarding the use of camera, sound, point of view and other related techniques and will discuss as to how the Director through specific techniques reveals the inner working of the human mind. A few articles related to cinema will be analysed. Besides this, a few psychoanalytical concepts will be introduced to the students as key concepts to understand the basic themes and characters in the films.

Objective: The objective of the course is to help inculcate the basics of film appreciation in the students as well as to help them develop deep psychoanalytical insights into literature and cinema and to understand the connection between literature, cinema and the human mind.

Course Outcomes:

On the successful completion of the course:

  1. The basics of film appreciation will be inculcated in the students as they will understand the art of reading films
  2. They will be introduced to film history
  3. The basic tools of understanding cinema will be introduced to them and they will become familiar with cinematic techniques and cinema as an art form
  4. They will be initiated into understanding human psyche and its complexity
  5. They will be able to appreciate the notion of the subjective

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module I: Reading films.This module will introduce the basic tools related to analyse film technique.

Module II: The second module will focus on Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) which stresses on the dark arena of human dread, terror and anxiety and explores themes related to the unknown areas of the human psyche, especially those parts of oneself that are hidden from one’s own self. This module will also undertake an in-depth analysis of Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali Un Chien Andalou (1929) which explores themes related to the omnipotence of desire.

Module III: The third module will focus on Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries (1957) a film that intermingles the past with the present, until we realize in Maria Wine’s words, as Bergman himself says that one sleeps in one’s childhood’s shoe. It will focus on themes related to memory, forgetting and old age.

Module IV: Will focus on Alain Resnais Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), which deals with the integration of the past and the present, of memory and oblivion, of Nevers and Hiroshima, of personal and universal tragedy as perceived through the minds of its central characters. It will focus on trauma and its relationship with history.

Module V: This module will focus on Federico Fellini’s Eight And A Half (1962), a film that interweaves the past, present and future and through this, creates a thinking process within the mind of the artist himself. It will deal with themes related to human psyche and the manner with which it grapples with art and the creative process.

Module VI: Passolini’s Oedipus Rex (1967) marvellously manifests the trauma of the protagonist mainly through the technique of sound and the visuals of the barren landscapes. The module will deal with themes related to psychic determinants which pull us in directions contrary to ourselves.

Module VII: Will focus on Rainer Werner Fassbinder, In a Year with Thirteen Moons (1978). This module will focus on themes related to gender and the human psyche. It will focus on the trauma of a transgender person.

Assessment Details with weights:

Tentative Assessment schedule with details of weightage:



Date/period in which Assessment will take place



Class participation

Throughout the semester



Response paper on a psychoanalytical reading

Mid semester



Term paper

Beginning of the last month of the Semester




End semester



Reading List:

  • Freddy Bauche, The Cinema of Luis Bunuel
  • Fellini on Fellini
  • Ted Perry, Film Guide to Eight and a Half
  • Siegfried Kraucer, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological Study of the German Film
  • Donald Skoller, Dryer In Double Reflection
  • Raymond Skoller, Speaking of the Language of Desire
  • Andre Bazin, What is Cinema
  • Sergei Eisenstein, The Film Sense, The Film Form
  • Christian Metz, Film Language
  • Lotte H Eisner, The Haunted Screen
  • Bergman on Bergman
  • Robert Katz and Peter Berling, Love is Colder than Death: The Life and Work of Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Mark Le Fanu, The Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Paul Schrader, Transcendental Style in Film
  • Braudy and Dickstein, Great Directors: A Critical Anthology
  • Seymore, Antonioni of the Surface of the World
  • Marguerite Duras, Hiroshima Mon Amour (script)
  • James Monaco, Alain Resnais
  • Roy Armes, The Cinema of Alain Resnais
  • Dictionary of Psychoanalytical Key concepts
  • Several articles related to psychoanalysis will constitute a core of the readings associated with the course (This course is non modular and hence cannot be divided into modules)


  • Additional films for discussion which may be included:
  • Michaelangelo Antionioni, The Red Desert (1964) Italy
  • Carl Thedore Dreyer, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) France
  • Andrei Tarkovsky, The Sacrifice (1986) Sweden/France
  • Michelangelo Antonioni, Il Grido (1957) Italy
  • Fritz Lang, M (1931) Austria