Freud's Last Case
Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Goode in Freud's Last Case. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Writer-director Matthew Brown was eager to grapple with what famous neurologist Sigmund Freud was thinking in his final days when he started working on his new historical drama Freud’s Last Session.

The Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Goode-led movie is based on the true story of a fateful meeting between Freud and Chronicles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis in which they heatedly debated the existence of God shortly before Freud’s death by euthanasia after a long battle with oral cancer in 1939.

Matthew Brown on Making Freud’s Last Session

“I guess what drew me to the film, aside from how I felt how timely it was, in some ways, was also looking at mortality and looking at death and that this is a person who’s days away from dying,” Brown said during a Q&A following a screening of the film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

“For Freud, this is his moment where he’s looking back over the course of this day, and he’s got this final burst of sort of manic energy… he’ll bounce back up, but he knows it’s the end. And I think in some ways, that’s what also really intrigued me. It’s like, we’re all so certain of our ideologies and our basic philosophies until we’re not,” Brown said. “When you’re a couple of days away from dying and you want to hear another side of the conversation and maybe take another look, because maybe there is something to it.”

Brown’s father, a psychiatrist, gave him a unique insight into who Freud was and how he might have felt during that conversation with Lewis.

“My father is a psychiatrist, and so I was a little reticent about doing the film to begin with,” Brown laughed. “But what he told me about Freud, which I really liked, was that he was somebody that constantly challenged his own ideas. If he was alive today, he would have probably said all of his ideas were ridiculous and gone on to new ideas. So I think there’s something great in intellectual curiosity and being able to listen, even if you don’t agree with somebody, try out just listening and hearing other ideas.”

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Rather than approaching the film from either Freud’s side or Lewi’s side, he decided to take a neutral stance.

“I wanted to make a film where it’s okay to disagree and it’s okay to hear other ideas. It doesn’t hurt you to do that — maybe it even opens you up to being able to take a look at who you are in a different way.”

Not only did Freud and Lewis have a lot in common — “their love of mythology and story” is one of them, Brown says — but Hopkins had a lot in common with his character as well.

“I think there was a similarity between Hopkins, his own philosophy on life to a degree, and the character at times. One of the things that I think probably stood out the most was this idea that the great sin — I’m probably speaking for Tony here — but it’s this idea of moral certainty, where we just can’t open up to anything else. I think he saw it in himself in his own works, and also in other lines of work, like Lewis’s ideas about God,” Brown added.

“So I think he laughed at himself as much as anything… the absurdity of life and the fact that he’s [Freud is] going to die and that frankly, nobody knows because none of us have come back from the dead unless it’s Lazarus.”

Following Brown’s 2015 Dev Patel drama The Man Who Knew Infinity, Freud’s Last Session also stars Malcolm Sinclair, Stephen Fry, Jeremy Irons, and Liv Lisa Fries.

Freud’s Last Session was released in theaters in December from Sony Pictures Classics.

Main Image: Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Goode in Freud’s Last Case. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics