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Friday, December 28, 2012

Psychology

S: You have often expressed contempt for psychology. Yet you keep talking about the mystery of personality in ways that sound psychological. What's the difference between what you want to understand and what the psychologist wants to understand? 

B: The psychologist discovers only what he can explain. I explain nothing. 

S: You are a person with no preconceptions. 

B: None at all. 

S: Whereas psychology is a closed system, whose premises dictate its method. Therefore, it discovers evidence in support of a preexisting theory of human behavior. 

B: If I succeed at all, I suppose some of what I show on the screen will be psychologically valid, even though I am not quite aware of it. But of course, I don't always succeed. In any case, I never want to explain anything. The trouble with most films is that they explain everything. 

....

S: What I am trying to explore with you is the emotional problem for the spectator [in Pickpocket]. 

B: I never think of the spectator. 

S: But you can see that your hero might appear unsympathetic. 

B: He is unsympathetic. Why not? 

S: I am also puzzled, in view of your uninterest in psychology, at the heavy psychological emphasis in this film. Let me explain. As we see the hero stealing, we don't know his motive, but toward the end of the film we find out that he previously stole from his mother. We then realize his psychological motivation; he stole from his mother, felt guilty about that, was ashamed to confess to her, and, therefore, commits crimes so as to be punished and fulfill his need for penitence. 

B: Perhaps, but only a psychiatrist would explain it like that. As Dostoyevsky frequently does, I present the effect before the cause. I think this is a good idea because it increases the mystery; to witness events without knowing why they are occurring makes you desire to find out the reason.

From this interview with Robert Bresson.

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