"Treatment", a dual-channel installation by Candice Breitz, brings an original soundtrack to three key scenes from "The Brood" (1979), a film that David Cronenberg has often described as his version of "Kramer vs. Kramer" (also released in 1979). "The Brood's" heavily autobiographical script explores the emotional strain experienced by a couple as their marriage dissolves, and a custody battle for their five-year-old daughter Candice ensues. Himself fighting for custody of a daughter at the time of writing "The Brood", Cronenberg has admitted that Samantha Eggar—the actress cast as Nola Carveth—“looked a little like my ex-wife”, while Art Hindle (the actor chosen to play her husband, Frank Carveth), in the director’s opinion, looked somewhat like himself. Having created—in the plot of "The Brood"—“a reasonable movie facsimile” of the harrowing situation he was facing in his own family life at the time, Cronenberg broods—throughout much of the unfolding narrative of the film—on a series of dysfunctional parent-child relationships, observing the havoc that these wreak across three generations of the Carveth family.
In a state of emotional distress following the collapse of her marriage, Nola Carveth effectively spends the film in treatment. Held in limbo in a fortressed clinic under the supervision of renegade psychotherapist Dr Hal Raglan (played by Oliver Reed), Nola is both the daughter of an abusive mother and the mother of a daughter that she abuses, embodying Cronenberg’s interest in the self-perpetuating psychological horror that lies potential in family relationships: “The Brood is the most classic horror film I’ve done: the circular structure, generation unto generation; the idea that you think it’s over and then suddenly you realise that it’s just starting again. That’s classic horror-movie structure.”
Dr. Raglan’s treatment involves intensive bouts of therapeutic role-play during which the doctor typically plays his patients’ abusive parents or maltreated children. As the matrix for "Treatment", Breitz isolates three such scenes from "The Brood". Each of the scenes—now severed from the plot of the original film—invites us to voyeuristically observe a therapeutic exchange between Dr. Raglan and one of his patients. The three scenes are projected one after the next on a gallery wall, in a constant rotation that evokes the looping repetition that is endemic to inner life. Stripped silent of the film’s original soundtrack, the scenes now receive their vocal content from the soundtrack of a second projection of the same size, which mirrors the original footage on the opposite wall of the gallery. The second projection documents the making of this new soundtrack: set in a professional sound studio, the footage cuts between four individuals, each seated at a microphone, each labouring to project his/her voice convincingly into the body of one of the actors appearing in the scenes projected on the opposite wall.
The credits of the work reveal the identities of the dubbing team: the artist invited her psychotherapist Dr. Renate Becker to synchronise the voice of Raglan across all three scenes, while the voices of the three patients undergoing therapy are painstakingly recreated by the artist’s mother, father and the artist herself. Breitz’s move is consistent with Cronenberg’s view of cinema as a space in which to “rehearse the difficult things of life” and points strongly to Breitz and Cronenberg’s shared interest in the overlap between cinematic- and psychological analysis. "Treatment" directs our thoughts to the circular nature of the relationship between real life and reel life; the ability of film to give voice to the stuff of life in the guise of fiction, but also the alchemy via which cinematic fiction in turn becomes ‘real’ for its viewers as it vocalises their actual or imagined experience.