Sigmund Freud’s office has been wonderfully recreated in the movie A Dangerous Method. It’s decked out with blood-colored curtains, leather-bound volumes, dark wood furniture and ancient talismans, so that there’s barely space for the doctor to sit, or think, inside. And it’s a dramatic contrast to Karl Jung’s (movie) office, with its pristine white walls and scrubbed oak floors. Freud was thinking modern and living Victorian, searching for scientific clarity while weighed down by all of literature and history. The sumptuously shadowed, cluttered room might be the perfect (movie) symbol for his mind. I visited the Freud Museum in London, once, years ago, on a drizzly afternoon. It’s Freud’s old house and office, which his son, the architect Ernst Freud, remodeled and enlarged with a small sunroom. I remember walking uphill from the Camden tube station through winding residential blocks, ringing the bell, then being inspected and admitted by a smiling, overattentive docent, who followed me silently from room to room.
Freud’s consultation room at the museum is furnished with the books, artworks and furniture he brought with from his famed office at Bergasse 19 in Vienna, which has also been turned into a museum. His couch, the most mythologized piece of furniture in Western history, was not at all what I expected. It was small and lumpy; it did not beckon me to lie down on it and surrender myself to my unconscious. It had a tapestry thrown over it, the same way college students throw tablecloths over furniture they drag into their dorm rooms from the sidewalk. Yet seeing it was tremendously moving. Freud left Vienna for London in 1938, for the obvious reasons, when he was 82 years old. He was suffering from jaw cancer and a portion of his face had been removed, so that he could barely speak. It’s tragic that this great man was was uprooted at this stage of his life. And it’s poignant that he recreated his life at Bergasse — piece by piece — in this stodgy brick house in suburban London.