sat 11/07/2020

Freud, Netflix review - hysteria and horror | reviews, news & interviews

Freud, Netflix review - hysteria and horror

Freud, Netflix review - hysteria and horror

Anything but a tame biopic of the Herr Professor Doktor's early professional life

Freud unwrapped: Robert Finster as troubled young Sigmund

Anyone expecting, as I was, a reverend and slightly earnest miniseries about Sigmund Freud's early professional years will be in for a surprise, and mostly in a good way. This, in short, is horror-schlock directed by Austrian specialist in the genre Martin Kren, made superior by acting and cinematography on a level with that to be found in the rather closer-to-history Babylon Berlin, a literate script by Stefan Brunner and Benjamin Hessler that's done its homework on the fledgling psychoanalyst's work in 1890s Vienna and above all a visceral quality which makes all the blood and grotesquerie shocking rather than laughable. I can't imagine British TV delivering such goods on anything like the same level, filming apart.

Young Freud is handsome in the photographs; Robert Finster makes him sexy in a subdued, brooding and eventually tortured sort of way (and yes, he did take cocaine, believing it at the time to be non-addictive. He even recommend it to his fiancée, Martha Bernays, to bring some colour into her cheeks). The cameras are always good on eyes as mirrors of souls in various states of disturbance, and that helps us go with a rather unusual kind of hysteric patient in the shape of Fleur Salomé, a Hungarian raised as an instrument of revenge in the national cause (to say more would be the realm of a spoiler). Ella Rumpf (pictured below) is just as compelling as Finster; her versatility is stretched to the limits by the increasing wildness of the plot. There's also a stricken war veteran, Alfred Kiss, grippingly played by Georg Friedrich, and much is made of how madness and ritual co-existed in the Austrian army of the time. The further these three go into the labyrinth, the more is demanded of the actors - and they deliver. Ella Rumpf as Fleur in 'Freud'In the second tier of characters are the compelling-bizarre von Szapárys who control Fleur – Anja Kling (pictured below with Finster) and Philipp Hochmair - offset in their weird intensity by the comic-stalwart sidekicks, the Herr Professor Doktor’s housekeeper Lenore (Brigitte Kren) and Kiss’s right hand man Poschacher (Christoph F. Krutzler). We also have, as in Babylon Berlin but not quite on that level of War and Peace-like believability, more real-life figures: older psychologists like Freud's antagonist Meynert and his supporter Breuer, whose broken-off analysis of Bertha Pappenheim ("Anna O.") informs the more outlandish Freud-Fleur “therapy”; later the introduction of crazy Crown Prince Rudolph and the dead hand of Emperor Franz Joseph I (and yes, the figure of Sissy, the Empress still absurdly mythologised by the Austrians, also makes a wraith-like appearance). Freud's Jewish family and bride-to-be also find themselves woven into the inner and outer worlds of the drama.Anja King and Robert FinsterIt comes as no surprise to learn that Prague was used for many of the outside locations, though Vienna in all its turn-of-the-century weirdness is a constant presence. The interiors seem meticulously observed, too, as I hope I can attest in the capacity of a former guide at London's Freud (House-) Museum and a visitor to what's left at the great man's Berggasse 19 apartment; at the time the film purports to cover, he was living in the Sühnhaus, a large apartment block built on the site of the Ringtheater, the destruction of which by fire, leading to 400 deaths is woven into the plot. That it was ill-starred would seem to be confirmed by the fact that one of Freud’s patents jumped to her death from the inner staircase – he moved after that. The reality lulls you into a false sense of stability, but by Episode Four the Shiraz rug is pulled so violently from under your feet that suspension of disbelief becomes briefly difficult. And some may find it hard to go on after Episode Six, which is extremely bloody and preposterous. Stick with it; the classy rewards outweigh the ludicrous.

Stick with it; the classy rewards outweigh the ludicrous

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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