Using widely collated footages and photos of Freud (above) from childhood to just prior to his death in 1939; the film is narrated through voice-overs - a winding and non-chronological epistolary narrative; mostly from the letters that he had received or had written, Freud appears to us through the perspectives of people who are central to his life: his daughter Anna Freud (narrated by Isabelle Huppert), Marie Bonaparte (Catherine Deneuve), Carl Gustav Jung (Micha Lescot), Lucie (Sandrine Kiberlain) and Lou Andreas-Salomé (Jeanne Balibar); with Freud himself narrated by Mathieu Amalric. The narration of the film is by Denis Podalydès.
The film is especially poignant when his letters are spoken softly through Amalric distinctive voice; Freud’s thinking is no longer merely entombed in the books I have read of his, and his image is no longer that of the bespectacled, handsomely dressed and coiffured man with a neatly manicured beard you see in photographs; he literally comes alive in this film. It is as though a veil is suddenly lifted, and we move from the mythic figure of Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, to reveal Freud the man.
It is astonishing to see how close a resemblance (in looks at least) that Robert Finster captured in last year’s Netflix show Freud. Which by the way, I really enjoyed despite its panning by critics and audiences, the main complaint being that it portrayed Freud as a ‘coke-fiend’. (Let’s not forget that it is readily documented that this was a drug he studied the effects of, on himself and others; as it was not taboo (or illegal) at the time, and was used to ‘loosen the tongue’).
As Netflix’s response was to cancel the show, I have to ask the question - where has everyone’s imagination gone? And as Fran Lebowitz says - a book is a ‘door’ not a ‘mirror’; and so too is it the case with good films and TV shows. It’s a door where you’re opened to new worlds and experiences; and not ones that you can necessarily relate to, nor do they have to be historically accurate. What an odd world we live in to want to only identify with characters in a film or a novel that we watch or read?!
With Sigmund Freud, un juif sans Dieu, there is no mention of cocaine-taking; but there is a lot of footage of Freud in his handsome gardens in Vienna, surrounded by flowers, his wife and family members (above). The later footage of him in exile in London were especially beautiful with him sitting in the garden, a comforter on his lap and his beloved chow-chow, Topsy, by his side (below).
Although there are no English subtitles in the YouTube version, for those who can read a little French (for me this helps, as spoken French can be a little hard to follow) you can put the auto-generated closed captions on.
This is one documentary that should be watched on the big screen if it ever comes to a festival in your city.
Produced by Arte. Currently available to watch on if you click here