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Matter of Heart

Kino // Unrated // July 6, 2004
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Robert Spuhler | posted July 2, 2004 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Carl Jung is a fascinating character in the history of psychoanalysis. The equal and opposite of Sigmund Freud, Jung founded what is known as "analytical psychology" and first articulated the concept of the "collective unconscious," an underlying force that is shared by all humankind and influences everything about and around us.

But Matter of Heart, a 1983 biography/documentary about Jung's life and work, manages to take this complex individual and reduce him to a flat, lifeless series of personal stories and recollections, punctuated only on rare occasions by his own words and writings.

Directed and edited by Mark Whitney, who now works more often as a gaffer according to the Internet Movie Database, Matter of Heart feels even longer than its 107 minute running time. There is no narration, no linear storytelling and no walkthrough of Jungian psychology from basics to advanced concepts. It is scattershot, just picking concepts out of thin air and then talking about them for a few minutes before moving to another.

The C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles owns the copyright to Matter of Heart, so as you could expect the film glosses over some of the darker moments of Jung's life. For instance, the split between Jung and Freud, which allegedly involved an extramarital affair and Jung's seduction of a patient, goes virtually unmentioned. His questionable relationship with the Nazi regime, its extent still somewhat unknown to this day, is likewise ignored.

Most frustrating about Matter of Heart is its inability to give a full accounting of either Jung's life or his psychology. It tries to do both, but ends up somewhere in between, accomplishing neither.

The DVD
Video:


The 4:3 aspect ratio displayed on the Matter of Heart disc is the original aspect ratio. The video quality is uniformly awful, which is to be expected with the 8mm footage of Jung from home videos and other older portions, but is unacceptable on the "current" (1983) interviews thanks to major noise, negative scratches and even frames shaking at times.

Sound:

The mono track does not do any favors to the interviews, especially with many of those appearing possessing heavy German accents. It makes some of the interviews very difficult to understand, and this bare-bones disc does not provide subtitles.

Extras:

Two extras on the disc do a much better job of explaining Jungian psychology than the documentary proper: An episode of the BBC's 1960s talk show "Face to Face" featuring an interview with Jung and excerpts from an incomplete documentary that featured clips of Jung talking at the Bollingen Tower Retreat. While second-hand sources can give interesting background information on a person, to hear Jung describe his philosophy in these extended clips gives the viewer a much fuller understanding of his ideas.

Final Thoughts:

I came into watching Matter of Heart with little knowledge of Jung; the only bits of his psychology I had studied came from a book about applying Jungian archetypes to characters in screenplays. I know a little more about Jung and his ideas now, but nothing compared to the knowledge available in his large library of writings. Combined that with the high retail price, and it is impossible to recommend this disc for purchase. However, the two supplements, adding up to 51 minutes of extra footage, make it worthy of a rental.
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