I admit I haven’t heard much about Irvin D. Yalom in the past. News of his latest book, The Spinoza Problem, reached me, but otherwise I was unaware that he is “an American existential psychiatrist who is emeritus professor of psychiatry at Stanford University” (wikipedia). Having no preconception of him I can honestly say that the movie with him came was unexpectedly terrific. I say “with” him, because it is more than a biopic. Yes, we learn about his childhood, his relationship to his wife and even see mini-interviews with his kids and grandkids.
However the strength of the movie came from the deep reflections he shared that were accompanied with great visuals and soothing music. As he is musing on the big topics of life, human existence we see some great connections. For example when he talks about the reasons people are afraid of facing things in themselves we see people playing frisbee on a rather foggy meadow. It is a nice metaphor for a, pushing things around passing responsibility to others, and b, the fog shows how difficult it is to become clear about our own inner life.
Another scene I enjoyed was when he was talking about love: “It is not just a passion, spark between two people. There is infinite difference between falling in love and standing in love. The idea is that you stand in love and not fall in love. And try to live in such a way that you always bring something more to life than the other.” During these words we see giant hoses spreading water in large circles on some sort of the wheat field, all shown from above. It shows the continuous tending love and relationships need. The film is full gentle words that are worthy to listen to and the images combined may create new connections or strengthening the integration of the messages.
I used to think of old age along the lines of this joke: An elderly man was asked how does it feel not having a sex-drive. His answer was: like finally getting of a wild horse. Yalom offered a more peaceful and appealing answer: being old is like finally being able to see the night sky. Throughout life we are bombarded with stimulus and when you are older you can slow down and savor every little experience. It was quite clear from the movie that Yalom is a balanced individual who is enjoying the stage he is at, being over 80. He was not shying away form the question of death either.
This is a movie worth watching multiple times. Not just for the peaceful and artistic editing, the careful pacing, but for the wisdom this professor shared with vigor and humor.
- Official site
- Facebook page
- Page at Jewishfilmfestivals.org
- IMDB summary: This cinematic feature documentary is more than a classic biography. Yalom takes the audience on an existential journey through the many layers of the human mind while he shares his fundamental insights and wisdom.
- Irvin D. Yalom’s site
* As a member of the committee helping to put on the Jewish Film Festival, organized by the Jewish Community Center, Sonoma County, I preview movies to help decide which ones to play at the Festival. I watched this movie as part of this volunteer effort.