"Spellbound" is a slightly disappointing entry from the production
and direction team of Selznick and Hitchcock. There's romance,
psycho-babble and an entertaining dream sequence, but character
motivation and plot development are not convincing.
The plot has an eminent young doctor (Gregory Peck) arriving to a
pyschiatric institute as its new director. He promptly has a
romance with lovely doctor Ingrid Bergman. Peck begins acting
strangely, and is revealed to be an amnesiac impostor, and murder
suspect. Peck and Bergman flee to old timer psychiatrist
(Michael Chekhov), who studies Peck's dreams. Peck is cured,
but there is still the matter of the murder.
Peck does as well as he can given his character. Sometimes he
acts normal, then suddenly freaks out when he sees black lines
on a white background. He can also be threatening, testy,
or catatonic, and has amnesia and a "guilt complex" to boot.
It is frustrating to find some consistency to his character,
or the motivation for frigid Bergman to fall suddenly for him
to the extent of ruining her career.
More quibbles: one scene has the pychiatric doctors performing
surgery. I am no medical expert, but aren't these separate
fields? Another scene has Peck able to recall a dream with
considerable detail, with Bergman and Chekhov instantly able to
surmise the significance of each detail. Later, Peck is suddenly
able to determine the cause of his guilt complex and recovers
completely from his amnesia at the same moment. Peck is
jailed and tried for murder, but this is depicted as a
few Bergman speeches.
I am no psychiatrist, but it seems simplistic to me that a
disturbed person is just a supressed memory away from being
normal. Most people who have psychological problems (eating,
drinking, smoking, gambling, spending, relationships, whatever)
are aware of their problems but simply lack the willpower or
discipline to change their behavior. Whoops, time to get
off the soapbox!
Hitchcock movies often have terrific music, but this one seems
to borrow from both "Gone With the Wind" and "The Lost Weekend"
The latter is understandable since Miklos Rozsa did that score
as well. He also did the score for "A Song to Remember",
and was nominated for 1945 Academy Awards for Best Score for
all three films!
Looking for the positive, Bergman is lovely and capable,
Chekhov is well cast, and the script and story moves things along
nicely. But the dubious pychiatry, and problems with Peck's
character and plot resolution keep the film from being
Copyright © 1997 Brian Koller