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The Becoming Room

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The contents of this book represent a series of experiments in dramatizing Bion's A Memoir of the Future, the primary one being an unfinished film begun in India in the 1980s and directed by Kumar Shahani, 'epic' artfilm maker, most of whose films have been produced in Hindi. The film was inspired and initiated by Bombay psychoanalyst Udayan Patel, and sponsored by the Roland Harris Educational Trust. The cast of actors included Jalal Agha, Tom Alter, Robert Burbage, Nicholas Clay, Neil Cunningham, Carol Drinkwater, Peter Firth, Nigel Hawthorne, Shona Morris, Jonathan Page (as a child), Angela Pleasence, Juliet Reynolds, and Alaknanda Samarth.The filmscript and a commentary are here included, together with a narrative poem written for Alaknanda Samarth who played the Ayah of Bion's childhood, and a playscript written for Tom Alter who played the Father. The play is due to be first performed in Bombay and Delhi in February 2016.An appendix reprints a psychoanalytic study of the Memoir by Donald Meltzer, who was closely involved in the production of the original film.The book is illustrated by screenshots from the film and the ebook contains video extracts.

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1 - Filmscript: A Memoir of the Future

ePub

Kumar Shahani and Meg Harris Williams

SEQUENCE A

Figments of Imagination

A pregnant, pubescent GIRL (KATHLEEN) flops down on the ground in the cellar.

England: the east coast mudflats.

P. A., trying to come out of the mudflats, looks up, hearing the voice of PRIEST.

Voice-over (PRIEST): Really, this is hopeless. I wanted to talk it over with you, only to get interrupted by these rowdy street urchins.

Titles over shots from different scenes.

P. A. is trying to walk on water.

Voice-over (P. A.): If they're facts I want to know who they are. But these figments of imagination – they really drag you down.

Voice-over (PRIEST): The mud has seeped into the place where our minds are supposed to be.

SCIENTIST gives P. A. a hand to come across and out of the mudflats to firmer ground.

SCIENTIST: Anyone with any senses knows that everything starts life as a figment of imagination. Yet, do we hear the body when it wants to tell us something that we do not want to hear?

 

2 - Commentary on the Film

ePub

Meg Harris Williams

This film tries to represent Bion's view of the struggle to give birth to an idea, that is, the essential template for personality development with all the turbulence and contradictory forces or characters that take part in the process.

SEQUENCE A

Figments of Imagination (the birth of turbulence)

The pubescent pregnant girl who opens the scenario for us is based on a figure reported in Bion's war memories of a devastated France, and on the character of the sister of a friend from his schooldays whom he greatly admired but with whom (he says) he did not quite dare to be in love. The pregnant feral child, representing the self invaded by an ‘other’, contains the germ of the future idea whose story is then enacted by the drama, clash and debate and between the other characters, all fictional even when they appear to represent Bion's own family. As he points out at the beginning of The Long Weekend, they are really all abstractions (the reverse perspective of the fictional). But rather more entertaining than those of the Grid. And all about ‘me’, that is, one mind seen in its component parts from its many vertices or perspectives: to begin with, P. A., a Scientist, and the parental figures of his childhood – biological mother and father, and spiritual-emotional Ayah, all of whom were intimately involved in his own somatic ‘birth’. This becomes the metaphor for his psychic struggle to exist and to discover or work out his own identity. It is also a metaphor for the birth of psychoanalysis, that ‘lusty infant both powerful and helpless’ (as Bion describes it), striving to become a thing-in-itself, the realisation of an idea in the mind of God.

 

3 - Playscript: The Becoming Room

ePub

Meg Harris Williams

This one-act play, based on Bion's autobiographies, was written in 2015 for Tom Alter who played Bion's Father in 1983 in the film A Memoir of the Future directed by Kumar Shahani.

Dramatis Personae

BION (as an old man)

FATHER/ ARFER/ ST PETER/ MAJOR (all characters spoken by BION; or these could all be played by one other actor)

SOMITE (female voiceover; ‘somite’ is a term taken from embryology and is used by Bion for the prenatal, unconscious or id features of the personality, whose voice is hard for the conscious mind to access; the somitic parts of the mind embody both primitive prejudice and instinctive wisdom).

Setting

All three scenes are set in St Peter's ante-room. There is continuous computerised screen backdrop using scenes from the unfinished film. These range from historical childhood recollections set in India and England in the early 20th century, including the First World War, to fantasy group interactions with a dreamlike dialogue as in psychoanalysis. The visual background complements what is essentially a monologue.

 

4 - Poem: Confessions of a Superego

ePub

Meg Harris Williams

What is to be sought is an activity that is both the restoration of god (the Mother) and the evolution of god (the formless, infinite, ineffable, non-existent), which can be found only in the state in which there is NO memory, desire, understanding.

(Wilfred Bion, Attention and Interpretation)

Introduction

This verse narrative fictionalising the genesis of Bion's ideas, in the voice of the ayah of his Indian childhood, was originally written for and performed by Alaknanda Samarth, who played the child Bion's Ayah in the unfinished film of A Memoir of the Future. The narrative is spoken by the voice of the ayah-as-goddess, the oriental aspect of Bion's internal mother/object, his internal muse. In the autobiographical books she is a shadowy figure; there are shades of her in all the female and mythical characters, from the old beggar woman to the Great Cat Ra, though she is realised most graphically perhaps in the character of Rosemary, the whore's child who gradually takes centre stage after the establishment mind has been ‘upturned', and promotes the group mind's interest in psychoanalysis.

 

5 - Three Lectures on a Memoir of the Future

ePub

Donald Meltzer

Introduction

When Wilfred Bion left England to take up a semi-retirement in California at the age of seventy, he left behind students and colleagues stunned by his loss – the more so that it seemed a desertion and an accusation. that we were the ones who threatened to ‘load him with honours and sink him without a trace’, that we were the container squeezing the life out of the mystic and his ideas. Egocentricity and downright need of his moral and intellectual support prevented consideration of his needs and certainly obscured any idea that this move could have anything but destructive consequences, for himself as well as for the colleagues and society he left behind.

As the ensuing years brought news of conflicts within the psychoanalytic community in Los Angeles and the first volumes of the Memoir began to appear in their shoddy and error-ridden Brazilian edition (1975, 1977), along with the equally unattractive and inaccurate so-called ‘lectures’ (1973–1974) in Brazil, it seemed that perhaps Dr Bion had not left us but rather had been kidnapped and was being tortured or degraded, or perhaps was just becoming senile. I remember my first visit to him in California, where, sitting with him in the garden, I was equally thrilled to experience my first earthquake and the realisation of how alive, alert, and seriously disposed he was towards his recent writing. But by that time I had managed to forgive him for the departure that, in my view, opened the way to such serious loss of organisation and purpose amongst his colleagues at home, while seeming to bear little fruit abroad. I suspect that his forgivemeness has not been universal, prejudicing many against serious reading, and necessarily re-reading, of the Memoir. Hence the necessity also of these lectures, which Meg Harris Williams and I have undertaken, to give the trilogy a thoughtful evaluation as regards its scientific and literary merit. Perhaps it has only been the publication recently of the autobiography of his childhood and experiences in World War I, The Long Weekend (1982), that has made this possible by its revelation not only of his character, so enigmatic in its extreme privacy, but also of many of the obscure references to his experiences that are sprinkled throughout the Memoir.

 

Credits for the Film a Memoir of the Future

ePub

CAST

in alphabetical order

 

Jalal Agha as the Priest

Robert Burbage as Bion

Neil Cunningham as Man

Tom Alter as the Father

Nicholas Clay as Mr Rhodes

Carol Drinkwater as the Mother

Peter Firth as the Scientist

Shona Morris as Kathleen

Angela Pleasence as Mrs Rhodes

Nigel Hawthorne as P. A.

Jonathan Page as Wilfred

Juliet Reynolds as Miss Whybrow

Alaknanda Samarth as the Ayah

K. K. Mahajan and Kumar Shahani filming A Memoir of the Future in New Delhi, December 1983

 

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