Where and When Does Freud’s Last Session Take Place?

Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Goode star as Sigmund Freud and C.S Lewis in ‘Freud’s Last Session,’ which follows the discourse between the two, with one holding fast to his belief in God while the other arguing for atheism. As the conversation unfolds, both Freud and Lewis revisit their past, especially their childhoods, in an attempt to trace the beginnings of what has now become their defining philosophy. The debate is further accentuated by the timing, which sets the tone with all the things in the background. It also adds another layer to the story, giving the audience a great perspective of their arguments. SPOILERS AHEAD

Freud’s Last Session Coincides With the Beginning of WWII

‘Freud’s Last Session’ takes place on September 3, 1939. It is revealed that a meeting had been set up between Freud and Lewis beforehand, and coincidentally, it happens to be the same day that England goes to war with Germany, which is not a surprise considering how things had been building up to it for quite some time. Because the movie presents a fictional meeting between the two historical figures, the choice of the date is an interesting one and makes the debate between the characters more layered.

The movie is based on the play of the same name by Mark St. Germain, who created this fictional turn of events based on Armand Nicholi’s ‘The Question of God.’ When setting up the context of the meeting between the characters, St. Germain deliberately chose September 3, 1939, as the date the story would take place because the threat of an imminent war keeps both Freud and Lewis on edge. For Freud, it closed all doors for his return to his home in Vienna, which he had to flee due to the threat of persecution at the hands of the Nazis. For Lewis, it digs up the terrifying memories of his time in the First World War and the painful prospect of living through another war.

The date also electrifies the background as the fear and tension in London, with the threat of a bombing looming over the city, gives more weight to Freud and Lewis’ fears and doubts. Moreover, when it comes to debating the existence of God, the mention of war and suffering is inevitable, and as the discussion of war makes its way into the story, the arguments on both sides start to get even more interesting.

Freud’s Last Session Takes Place at His House

Image Credit: Sabrina Lantos/Song Pictures Classics via AP

Unfolding over the course of one day, ‘Freud’s Last Session’ takes place, for the most part, at Freud’s home at 20 Maresfield Gardens in London. This is where the psychoanalyst spent the last few years of his life. Following his death, the house was occupied by his daughter, Anna Freud, who lived there with Dorothy Burlingham, her partner on both personal and professional fronts. Following Anna’s death in 1982, the house was turned into a museum, which opened to the public in 1986 and is now known as the Freud Museum.

Setting the story in Freud’s house works on several levels for the film. First, it lays down the fact that the meeting was an invitation, with both parties more interested in understanding each other’s points of view rather than trying to refute one another’s beliefs aggressively. Second, it limits the movement for Freud and Lewis, leaving little to no room for them to escape when the other confronts them with a touchy point. For Lewis, this point comes with the discussion of his relationship with his friend’s mother, while for Freud, it comes with the question of his and Anna’s dependence on each other.

The close proximity also allows the subjects not to judge each other just based on their conflicting beliefs. Their struggles, completely unrelated to the debate, shed more light on who they are and allow them to understand each other better, something that may not have been possible had the debate taken a different form.

Read More: Did Sigmund Freud and CS Lewis Meet in Real Life?