“Aw, that Freud stuff’s a lotta hooey!” says Gregory Peck at one point in the movie. I partially agree with you, Greg. My impression is that psychiatry is split into many different camps these days with not a lot of strict Freudians left, but back in the day he was just about the only game in town, and this is a very Freudian movie. I think Freud was on target with many things, dead wrong with others. Not his fault, really. He was a pioneer, inventing a new field from scratch. How was be going to get everything right?
One of the things I view as quite iffy is the interpretation of dreams, which plays a central role in this plot. Peck is an amnesiac, and he shows up at a mental hospital pretending to be the new head doctor. He’s so obviously the looniest tune in the funny farm that he is exposed within 24 hours. But Ingrid Bergman, known as the ice queen to the other doctors, falls in love with him, and they set out to find out who he really is and what happened to him before he’s arrested for killing the real doctor. This involves the interpretation of his dream, and that and the last scene are really the best things about this rather minor Hitchcock movie. (From IMDb: Alfred Hitchcock himself referred to the film as “just another manhunt wrapped up in pseudo-psychoanalysis”.)
The dream sequence was designed by Salvador Dali, and is a total visual mind-freak. They say it was 20 minutes long at first, but was cut by the producer, David O. Selznick, The asshole. I would have loved to have seen more of it, it’s the highlight of the movie. The other great thing is at the very end. The real killer realizes he is about to be exposed. We see from his POV as he points the gun at Bergman, the gun tracks her, and she leaves the room. He opts for suicide. The hand holding the gun turns and aims right at us. He pulls the trigger … and there are two frames of red. What is really interesting is that the gun and the hand holding it had to be enormous for the perspective to be right. If you observe the hand as it comes into view, you can tell it’s a fake. But boy, does it work!