A film by Kate Novak
2020, 27 minutes
No. 282

Nominee, Best Short, International Documentary Awards

DVD and DSL includes the short film, HYSTERICAL GIRL (13 minutes), and supplementary material, THE MAKING OF HYSTERICAL GIRL (14 minutes), for a deeper discussion on the issues raised in the film.

In 1900, Sigmund Freud began treating a 17-year old girl he called "Dora." Her parents brought her to therapy after she accused a family friend of sexual assault. Freud's account of his sessions with Dora was the only major case history he published of a female patient. Intercutting his published text with a scripted version told from Dora's point of view, Hysterical Girl revisits this landmark case.

Woven throughout are several decades of cinema, Congressional hearings, and media coverage. What emerges is a portrait of the grip that Freud’s theory of hysteria has had on popular culture over the past century and into the present day.

SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL: The Making of Hysterical Girl
The Making of 'Hysterical Girl' extends the discussion and goes behind the scenes with the director to reflect on the filmmaking craft. Drawing on exclusive interviews with scholars of Freud, this companion commentary piece considers how some of Freud's key theories -- hysteria, the Oedipal Complex -- remain embedded in contemporary culture and serve to sustain systemic patriarchy.

Novack also offers an inside look at a series of filmmaking choices, from the rapid-firing editing, the interweaving of scripted and documentary elements, set design, cinematography and casting. Newcomer Tommy Vines, 16, reflects on her experience playing the role of Dora and considers the connection between this early 20th-century figure and herself.

In addition to Novack and Vines, The Making of 'Hysterical Girl' features interviews with Madelon Sprengnether, the prominent literary and academic figure whose books "Mourning Freud" and "The Spectral Mother" played an important role in rethinking Freudian theory, and psychoanalyst Susan Kolod, Ph.D, of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Directed by Kate Novack and Archer Grano. Edited by Archer Grano. 

Official Selection, SXSW

“An extraordinary documentary. Novack links Dora to a vast number of women through the present day, and connects those who enabled Dora’s assailant to men (and some women, too) throughout history—including Freud. One of the things that I thrill to see in short films is density—an intense and rapid profusion of information, events, and images, at a pace and with a detailed compression that might be hard to sustain in a feature. Hysterical Girl is, in effect, a feature’s worth of ideas, emotions, allusions, references, and associations condensed into a mere thirteen minutes.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker