“The Century of the Self” is a captivating exploration of the enduring influence of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories on modern society, meticulously crafted by writer and producer Adam Curtis. Across its four-hour duration, the documentary dissects Freud’s insights into human desire and their pervasive impact on realms such as advertising, consumerism, and politics.

The journey begins with “Happiness Machines,” delving into the pioneering work of Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew and a seminal figure in the field of public relations. Bernays adeptly tapped into humanity’s latent desires to foster group cohesion, leveraging these insights to shape public opinion during World War I and later in the realm of advertising.

In “The Engineering of Consent,” the narrative takes a darker turn as it examines Freud’s theories in the context of Nazi Germany. Collaborating with the American government, figures like Bernays and Freud’s daughter Anna sought to suppress the darker impulses of the human psyche in pursuit of a harmonious society.

Moving to the tumultuous 1960s, “There is a Policeman Inside All of Our Heads, He Must Be Destroyed” explores how Freud’s ideas intersected with the rise of counterculture and individualism. Corporations and advertisers adapted their messaging to celebrate personal desires, showcasing the malleability of Freudian concepts in changing social climates.

Finally, “Eight People Sipping Wine In Kettering” brings the focus to politics, revealing how Freud’s legacy shaped campaign strategies in the 1990s. With a keen eye on fulfilling the innermost desires of the electorate, political operatives like Matthew Freud engineered successful campaigns, exemplified by Bill Clinton’s presidency.

As viewers navigate the intricate web of influence depicted in “The Century of the Self,” they confront essential truths about human susceptibility to manipulation and the complex interplay between desire and control.

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