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Arnaud Desplechin’s Next Project: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian

Arnaud Desplechin has completed the first draft for his next film, Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian (expect a title change). This is a book adaptation but not from the novel kind, instead it’s the findings from one George Devereux an American – French ethnologist and psychoanalyst (one of the pioneers of ethnopsychoanalysis and ethnopsychiatry) who published Reality and dream: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian in 1951.

Arnaud Desplechin has completed the first draft for his next film, Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian (expect a title change). This is a book adaptation but not from the novel kind, instead it’s the findings from one George Devereux an American – French ethnologist and psychoanalyst (one of the pioneers of ethnopsychoanalysis and ethnopsychiatry) who published Reality and dream: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian in 1951. What Devereux revealed, is that the scientific approaches in observational work will always be tainted – which is sort of obvious when you think of it, but back then those in the scientific community thought they had their methodology all worked out. We are big fans of Desplechin (here is our last interview with him) but hate watching his films in the context of a huge film festival – his lengthy films demand a “secluded” viewing space.

This wiki entry explains what the gist of it: Devereux proposes to rethink the question of the relation between the observer and the observed. Devereux takes his guidance from psychoanalysis. According to him, the classical methodological principle which prescribes to the researcher to make his observations from a strictly objective point of view is not only impossible to put into practice but outrightly counterproductive. Instead the observer should place himself in the middle of the process and keep in mind that whatever he may observe is always influenced by his own activity of observing.

Arnaud Desplechin Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian

In the clip below, the filmmaker mentions that he just finished the first version of the screenplay which basically tells the story of a Native American who receives psychotherapy from a French psychotherapist and the film would explore their friendship. When questioned about possible actors attached, Desplechin mentioned that he doesn’t write with actors in mind, he creates unplayable characters and asks his peers if they are interested in the role – but we can assume that he’ll need two lead male figures circa late 40’s- 50’s East Coast America, but if you skip below, you’ll get an idea of where he might go with this. Producer Pascal Caucheteux (Denis’ White Material and the upcoming Antony Cordier film Happy Few) would once again produce for Desplechin. 

To get a further idea as to why the filmmaker is attracted to the book, here is an excerpt from a Bright Lights interview where he discussed the uniqueness of rapport. “I loved the opposition between the two characters: One is this little guy from Hungary, shameless and brutal; and the other’s this huge Indian who has been through the war and has some problems and is so shy and hesitant to speak about his problems. And I thought, yeah, the savage is Ismaël. He’s the idiot and the clumsy one. So it was quite important — also as a political statement for me — not to show the psychotherapist as a European. I wanted to ask an African actress to play the part so I could have the same dynamic. I think that’s what friendship is about, to be different.”

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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