Finding Freud in film

Ariel Seth

Roy, a con man and obsessive-compulsive agoraphobic, meets his fourteen-year-old daughter for the first time and soon they become comrades who go into business together.

Little does Roy know, his daughter is becoming dangerously fascinated with crime.

The film “Matchstick Men” booms over room 211 in the MacDougal Administration Center at City College. The large screen, dark room engulfed by drawn curtains, and surround sound speakers make for a nice little movie theater on East Campus.

If you didn’t know this was Jeffery Jarrett’s Psychology of Film class, you would assume you were at the movies.

“Pay special attention to Nicholas Cage’s disorder, which is very obvious,” said Jarrett, as he turned the film on.

Nearly 25 students hustle into the room Monday and Wednesday afternoons to watch part of a film and discuss the psychological disorders observed.

“The class seems really interesting,” said Cacey Portwood, a psychology major. “We’re analyzing psychological phenomena in film and how filmmakers generate certain outcomes for the audiences.”

This is the very first semester this course is being taught. According to the syllabus, students discuss how filmmakers achieve emotional reactions in audiences with respect to psychological theories. “Matchstick Men” is just one of a string of films the class will be analyzing, with other well-known films such as “Good Will Hunting” and “Trainspotting” to follow.

“It’s a fun class,” said Benjamin Ray, a psychology major. “It’s a new professor, a new class, and it’s extremely interesting!”

Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Jarrett moved to Venice Beach and was a film producer for fifteen years. Yearning for more, he earned his Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology.

However, he didn’t stop there. He is also a soon to be a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

“I’m very, very thrilled my two great loves in life are in one course,” said Jarrett.

The tall man props himself up on a desk while viewing the film. With his backpack paired with a big jug of water and a laid back demeanor, it’s easy to see the producer in him. But it’s his personality that indicates the psychologist in him, and his passion for it shines through his eyes.

During discussion, students seem intrigued by Jarrett’s statements and questions about the film. He asks the students what they think about Cage’s obsessive compulsive disorder and dysfunctional relationship with his daughter, Angela, played by Alison Lohman.

Jarrett lists on the screen treatments for someone with OCD. Students talk about cognitive behavioral therapy and systematic desensitization therapy. He lists medications like Xanax, Valium and Librium and asks students if and how they would use these medications on Roy.

Students taking this class are urged to have completed Psychology 101, although it’s not critical, said Jarrett.

“It’s kind of a guinea pig class,” Jarrett said. “The department is kind of feeling their way as to how they want this class presented.”