NCSPP

Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology

POTENTIAL SPACE: ELIZABETH BRADSHAW, MSc., M.A.

A BEGINNING TO EXPLORING THE END

On October 8th, NCSPP's Prelicensed Clincians Committee presented a screening of Last Night, a poignant film that follows a series of ordinary people during earth's final six hours. Though this film falls firmly within the genre of apocalyptic fantasies, director and writer Don McKellar does not focus on the imminent destruction of the planet, but rather concentrates on how the characters, in their own fumbling human ways, structure and bring meaning to their final moments. 

During a lively post-screening presentation, Jed Sekoff, Ph.D. led an engaging conversation exploring and questioning what happens in the face of social and personal breakdown, when the ego is confronted with unbearable states it does not have the capacity to bear. Drawing on the ideas of Michael Balliant, D. W. Winnicott, Melanie Klein, Norman Cohen, Sabina Spielrein, and Ruth Stein, Dr. Sekoff questioned how one goes on being in the face of crystallized "primitive agonies," when death and destruction are an imminent personal and global reality. With the collapse of the social, familial, and cultural envelopes, what extrudes into the world? This is a question that echoes into our contemporary landscape when we bear in mind the current housing crisis, recession, and rising unemployment rates. Also, what happens when there is a failure of mourning and reparation--when love is not enough? The audience was engaged and actively thought together about how the characters, and by extension our patients and we ourselves, attempt to create meaningful gestures and structure experience in the face of various existential realities. Themes involved the duality of one's solutions, surrender vs. submission, merger, attempts at control in the face of vulnerability, and questions of performance and desire. 

Although McKellar himself dryly remarked in a 1999 interview with the Village Voice, "The film is about closure, in a big way," the ending seemed to leave a psychic spaciousness, rather than a sense of completion or shutting down. So, too, did the presentation and audience's conversation provide a point of departure rather than a finish line in considering these issues. In the end, it seemed, following moments of intimacy, as well as intellectual and emotional stimulation, we, like the characters in the film, gathered up the bits and made something personally and collectively meaningful out of them. 

Elizabeth Bradshaw, M.Sc., M.A. 
IMPULSE Staff Writer