L’Atalante (1934), which often appears in lists of The Ten Best Films of all Time, was written and directed by Jean Vigo, a young French artist, who died of tuberculosis before the final cut of this film was complete. It is the story of a young French woman who marries the captain of a barge which travels the Seine, her husband, and his tiny crew. Few films have ever so effectively captured the numinous syzygy of anima/animus as does L’Atalante.
According to John Beebe, Jungian Analyst and film critic, writing on the anima in film, “The anima in film is much like the anima anywhere else: a confusing, deceptive presence with the capacity to engender inner transformation. Perhaps the only advantage a film-goer has (in common with the individual who can remember dreams) is that the archetype is visible as well as effective. For that reason, I have frequently turned to movies to understand better the typical role of the anima, and my hunger, as a clinician, to get a clearer sense of the functioning of this unconscious feminine presence has not gone unsatisfied.”
Current Jungian thought revisions Jung’s strictly gendered concept of anima/ animus into concepts far more fluid, with many analysts concluding that how we image “the other” within may not be in terms of a contrasexual being, but through a symbolic representation of our essential, most true self: our soul, if you will, with whom we long to unite. As we view and discuss this film, we will keep this revisioned concept of the anima in the forefront.
In addition, Pam will share a brief biography of Jean Vigo and the cultural context in which this film, startling for both its filmography and its message, was produced.
Pamela Behnen, LPC, Certified Jungian Analyst, lives and practices as an analyst in the Tower Grove South neighborhood of St. Louis. She is a member of the IRSJA and IAAP, and is now serving as Seminar and Training Coordinator of the Memphis-Atlanta Jungian Seminar, as well as a faculty member of the Heartland Jungian Seminar.