The enemies of psychoanalysis couldn't devise a nastier indictment of the practice than "Matter of Heart," although it's intended as a tribute to Carl Jung, the author and analyst who broke with Freud in 1912 and became his most prominent opponent.
The documentary consists mostly of interviews with former patients and associates of Jung's, intercut with footage from an interview Jung conducted shortly before his death. The interviewees, particularly the women, all remember the man fondly, so what's unintentionally devastating about the documentary is how bloodless it is. These people, mostly analysts themselves, sucking pipes in front of shelves groaning with books, are prisoners of jargon. They can't simply say they loved Jung -- they say they had a "transference" with him.
Another analyst, married to yet another analyst, describes the development of their marriage, which seems to have been a highfalutin version of "I Love Lucy," this way: "Jane had to develop thinking function, and I had to develop feeling function." Jung invented lots of this gobbledygook, and in his own appearances, he's as guilty as his epigones. An event as sublime as love at first sight becomes a "projection of the archetype of the anima." And so forth.
But saying that "Matter of Heart" lacks heart is about the kindest charge you could make. It's a kind of Olympics of pontification, a dull hayride even by the standards of educational TV, and that's saying a lot. The interviews are amateurishly lit and photographed, and the subjects are allowed to drone on at excruciating length (the average viewer might find the expatiations of one particularly gaseous Britisher on the fate of the globe, which as far as I could tell had nothing to do with Jung whatsoever, a convenient cue to bolt).
For some reason, filmmaker Mark Whitney has eschewed the most elementary organizing technique -- the voice-over narration -- so that those unfamiliar with Jung's work are left totally at sea. That work is often regarded as important, and he seems to have led a mildly interesting life, particularly in regard to an affair that he conducted, for 40 years and with the full knowledge of his wife, with one of his patients.
But the work is never explained or placed in context. The subjects carry on, without exception, in a kind of breathless awe of Jung, most of which seems to have depended on the kind of tricks you identify with the Amazing Kreskin -- they'd tell him the first half of a dream, and he'd finish it -- and on his apparently powerful seductive appeal to women. "Matter of Heart" ignores Jung's dark side, which included what was more than a flirtation with Nazism, as well as his silly side, which included the espousal of the I Ching. Instead, we see him as a lovable old clockmaker, chopping wood in his back yard.
Unfortunately, Jung had the dull, round visage of an Alpine burgher, with a Cheshire-cat grin and beady eyes that revealed nothing. And for all you learn from the movie, he had a dull mind as well -- the movie supplies long block quotes with the flavor of after-dinner-speech wisdom: "The essential thing is the life of the individual"; "Man has already received so much knowledge that he can destroy his own planet."
Late in the movie (it seemed late, anyway), a cracked old bird with a fervent belief in alchemy (!) relates, with imperial seriousness, how Jung used to carry on conversations with his pots and pans. Aha! So there is an audience for "Matter of Heart"!
Matter of Heart, at the Key, is unrated.