The Doctor and Woody Allen
NEW YORK (AP) _ Here’s a diagnosis of Woody Allen’s ″Crimes and Misdemeanors,″ courtesy of Martin S. Bergmann, a therapist for more than 40 years and clinical professor of psychology at New York University:
″You have a very a successful physician (Martin Landau), who is starting an affair where he doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into. He doesn’t show you at any time what the mistress (Anjelica Huston) really meant. We really don’t understand what she once meant to him, nor do we understand what the marriage means to him.
″Then you have the character of Clifford that Woody Allen represents, who is kind of idealistic but very unsuccessful. He falls in love with this woman (Mia Farrow) and eventually she, too, disappoints him. ″You have to ask yourself not whether it makes sense in an isolated event, but whether it makes sense in the framework. I must say it does make sense. There is a kind of Chaplinesque idea there - that life is very mysterious and you are a very small man.″
Very perceptive for a man who knows more about analytic couches than casting couches, but what business does a psychiatrist have rating films? In this case, plenty.
Actors have played therapists, notably Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1945 thriller ″Spellbound,″ and Montgomery Clift starred as John Huston’s ″Freud.″ Now an analyst has turned actor.
In a major breakthrough for the psychiatric field, Bergmann makes his film debut in ″Crimes and Misdemeanors,″ portraying the kindly Dr. Levy, a philosopher of love and the subject of a documentary Clifford is producing.
Although an admirer of Allen’s work, Bergmann wasn’t looking to be in the movies. His ″discovery″ came through an unexpected connection. A student, who knew Allen’s casting director, recommended Bergmann for the part.
″He (Allen) took me to a room and asked me questions,″ Bergmann recalled. ″He wanted me to talk. He wanted me to talk about love, death and religion. I spoke about all of these topics for an hour and a half. He used a few excerpts in the movie.″
He only worked on the set for half a day and actually filmed a few scenes that were cut from the final release. One segment, in which Bergmann and Allen were to have a philosophical conversation while walking through Central Park, was cut because of cold weather. Another was scuttled because of a misconnection between the film world and academia.
″I was supposed to teach a class on the Holocaust,″ Bergmann said, ″but there I was, trying to ask questions and all the students were dummy actors, who were not supposed to answer questions. I am accustomed to an exchange and none of my questions were picked up.″
Psychiatry is his profession, but Bergmann really has read enough to qualify as a doctor of love as well. He’s even written a book, ″The Anatomy of Love″ ($14.50, Columbia University Press), an academic’s attempt to examine how the great thinkers of the ages have tried to make sense out of an emotion that seems without logic.
″Literature on love originated in Egypt 3,500 years ago, and the metaphors which the Egyptians used are still our metaphors now: love as a sickness, with the beloved as a physician. That love is a trap, they had already developed. Metaphors persist unchanged.
″Plato believed that we were once one person, that some of us were men and women, some of us were only women, and some of us were only men. We were cut in half and each half yearns for the other.″
Bergmann was born in 1913 in Czechoslovakia, lived in Israel in the 1920s and ’30s and began practicing psychiatry when he emigrated to the United States after World War II.
He’s a fan of movies, but warns against taking them too seriously. There are no Clark Gables in real life, no Cary Grants - not even any Dr. Levys.
″We begin life kind of living in fantasy; we acquire reality only slowly and relinquish our world of fantasy only slowly. Long before movies were ever invented, the adjustment to reality was a very slow process because we have to accept limitations, and limitations are always painful.
″So we reserve a domain called fantasy in which we are still king and where our wishes can be met. Then come the movies, and it’s on the screen. So it’s no longer in the head, it has a quasi-reality. For many people it is full reality.″