WHEN NIETZSCHE WEPT
(director/writer: Pinchas Perry; cinematographer: Georgi Nikolov; editor: David Jakubovic; music: Sharon Farber; cast: Armand Assante (Nietzsche), Ben Cross (Dr. Josef Breuer), Jamie Elman (Sigmund Freud), Joanna Pacula (Mathilda), Katheryn Winnick (Lou Salome), Michal Yannai (Bertha), Andreas Beckett (Zarathustra); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Pinchas Perry; First Look Home Entertainment; 2007)
“A morose and heavy-handed primer for psychoanalysis.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A morose and heavy-handed primer for psychoanalysis, that’s hardly believable and is executed in such an awkward manner that it brings about uncalled for titters at its most serious moments. It’s adapted by writer-director Pinchas Perry (“The Prince”) from Irvin D. Yalom’s fictional 1992 novel.
It’s set in Vienna in the spring of 1882. Dr. Josef Breuer (Ben Cross) is a successful doctor who is married to Mathilda (Joanna Pacula) and has three children, and his best friend is the younger Dr. Freud (Jamie Elman). The two psychoanalysts worked together on a report on hysteria and transference involving a patient they called Ann O, who in reality was a Viennese social worker named Bertha (Michal Yannai ) whom Breuer fell in love with and still hasn’t gotten over being smitten.
One day Breuer receives an office visit from an attractive Russian emigre, Lou Salome (Katheryn Winnick), who wants him to treat the suicidal philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (Armand Assante). The professor who lectures that “God is Dead” to an almost empty lecture hall, has become depressed when Lou spurned his love and suffers from migraines. Since Nietzsche would refuse help for his mental problems, Lou requests that Breuer help the little known genius writer for his physical ailments and on the sly treat his mental ailments. After Breuer reads Nietzsche’s two published books at the time, he agrees to take the case because it’s so challenging.
After getting nowhere, Breuer talks Nietzsche into spending a month in his Lauzon clinic and they reverse roles, withNietzsche treating the doctor for his ill-fated love affair of a patient and Breuer treating the philosopher for his medical problems. This leads to many dream sequences and text book dialogue that couldn’t be more tedious or pretentious.
Unless you have a need to be depressed and to see Nietzsche weep, you would probably do better dancing a Viennese waltz than tuning into this middle-brow academic tune.
REVIEWED ON 3/5/2009 GRADE: C