INTERVIEW: Matthew Brown (Director) & Matthew Goode (C. S. Lewis) Talk about ‘Freud’s Last Session’
Freud’s Last Session (Sony Pictures Classics) is a fascinating film that imagines a fictional conversation between Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. The stimulating debate explores important questions about life, death, and faith (read our full review here).
We had the opportunity to chat with director Matthew Brown and actor Matthew Goode, who portrays C. S. Lewis in the film.
(Note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity. Watch the full conversation above.)
Daniel Blackaby: Welcome, guys. This is a fascinating film that grapples with a lot of big questions about life, mortality, and faith. Can you share about taking an ideologically neutral point of view for this film, focusing more on the questions and the conversation rather than just providing answers?
Matthew Brown: It felt to me like our culture right now is so much the loudest voice in the room and everybody wants to be right about everything. I think sometimes it’s okay to just listen and to maybe learn something from the other person and to have a conversation. So that’s what I was trying to provide: a conversation where the audience hopefully can make up their own minds about it rather than having the filmmaker have an agenda to sell one point of view or the other. I thought that would have been a disservice.
DB: Matthew, you are excellent in your portrayal of C. S. Lewis. As you went to embody this character, what was the essence of C. S. Lewis that you sought to bring out in your performance?
Matthew Goode: Thank you. That’s very kind. He’s such a fascinating man. There was an awful lot of research. Surprised by Joy was hugely important to me, because it’s him talking about his own childhood, right? So that gave me a great perspective about his humanity, talking about all these tragedies that come up in his life. He was always full of compassion and laughter, and a very peaceful, joyful, and thoughtful man.
DB: This isn’t a biopic, although there are several flashbacks. There are elements in this story that give a deeper insight into who these people are and the experiences that formed them and their ideas. Can you share about including these significant moments in their past.
Brown: You’re right, there’s significant moments in their past. What I was trying to do was to have the arc of the philosophical debate and then have the arc of the therapy sessions that are going on with these two men. They’re very human and flawed men that have had great challenges in their lives. I tried to use the flashbacks to give insight into pivotal moments that had a huge impact on their psyches. With Lewis, you have PTSD at the forefront. You have losing his mother. You have the war. With Freud, you have the relationship of him losing his daughter and his complicated relationship with his other daughter. So, I was trying to find things in his life to show some of those. Anything that moved the story forward in terms of what has formed their personalities, I was trying to show those.
DB: Yeah, and it grounds their ideologies and abstract philosophies.
Brown: I hope so. I think it’s hard to understand Lewis without experiencing some of that PTSD. Otherwise, you’re just being told about it. And I think with Freud, it’s similar.
DB: A final question for both of you. We live in a polarized world today. There’s something refreshing about watching this film about two people showing mutual respect, despite significant disagreements. What do you hope people take away from this film.
Goode: I mean, look at where we’re at right now in the world. We need people to actually have these kinds of debates. They don’t even have to be called intellectual debates, because I think oftentimes the conversation is fairly simple. But people aren’t listening, and there needs to be that level of respect. That starts in your own kitchen with your own family before it can start anywhere, I suppose. So that’s what I hope they can take away from it.
Brown: I agree with Matthew completely. That was always my hope for this film, that when the lights went on at the end of the film, people would get up with whoever they’re with and have conversations. They’re just hanging out, talking afterwards as you do about film, but maybe they can talk about some of the themes and do it respectfully.
DB: All the best as this movie comes out. Thank you for taking the time to chat.
Goode: Thank you very much.