In 1966, David Cronenberg wrote, edited, produced and directed his first film Transfer. This 16mm short told a seemingly simple story of a psychiatrist (Mort Ritts) and his patient (Rafe Mcpherson) playing out their roles against a frozen, snow-covered landscape.
Cronenberg was a 23-year-old student studying English Literature and Language when he made this film. He had originally enrolled at the University of Toronto to study science, but changed courses during his first year as he believed it would not help him become a “scientist who wrote fiction.”
Academia did not hold his interest long. Cronenberg quickly sought other avenues to express himself. Inspired by a classmate David Secter—who directed a feature film Winter Kept Us Warm—Cronenberg started hanging out at movie facility houses to learn about cameras, film and soak up as much as he could on the technical side of filmmaking.
He then ventured out to make his first of two short 16mm films—Transfer and From the Drain.
Though there is little of the bloody visceral obsessions that mark some of his later work, Transfer does hint at his interest in medicine, psychiatry and the relationship between doctor and patient which he would later develop in The Brood (1979), Scanners (1980), Dead Ringers (1988) and most obviously A Dangerous Method (2011) that examined the relationship between Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and the first female psychoanalyst Sabina Spielrein. Cronenberg declared this last film had brought him full circle from the making of his first—Transfer.
Cronenberg has since said:
Transfer, my first film, was a surreal sketch for two people—a psychiatrist and his patient—at a table set for dinner in the middle of a field covered in snow. The psychiatrist has been followed by his obsessive former patient.
The only relationship the patient has had which has meant anything to him has been with the psychiatrist. The patient complains that he has invented things to amuse and occasionally worry the psychiatrist but that he has remained unappreciative of his efforts.
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