Documentary about Sigmund Freud: The unconscious is an open book – culture

The saying that dreams are “foam” is an expression of rejection. The knowledge of what dreams reveal about unconscious desires, hidden fears and aggression can be as fascinating as it is unsolicited. In dreams, people tell themselves something about themselves, immeasurably creative and beyond the logic of day and reason. The French director David Teboul also illustrated his documentary film “Freud über Freud” in an associative manner, about the pioneer of psychoanalysis who died in 1939 and who opened the doors of consciousness to the unconscious at the beginning of the 20th century. According to Freud’s daughter Anna, he gave research a “keyring”.

Anna Freud is one of the many voices of contemporary witnesses quoted in the film. Photos, some of which are hardly known or newly discovered, accompany the narratives on theory and biography, a dreamlike collage of text passages and scenes that begins with the Jewish ancestors of the Viennese Sigmund Freud and ends with his flight from National Socialism to London, where he lived shortly after the beginning of the war died.

The symbolic reading of the book of the unconscious is Freud’s monumental discovery. Playing boys snatch the flowers from a girl in a meadow that she has picked, and with this dream scene from childhood Freud opens up the term “deflower”, the flower breaks. From the interpretation of dreams to the treatises on the sex drive and the model of the psychic apparatus consisting of ego, id and superego, Freud, who had become more pessimistic with age, reached the question of the causes of war and the extent to which culture sublimated aggressive drives.

Napoleon’s great-grandniece helps Freud into exile

Passages from the work and from correspondence with companions are spoken, closely intertwined by Teboul with mostly black-and-white documentaries from those years. They show the streets of Vienna, a carnival procession, grotesque masks, everyday scenes, Jews in a synagogue, pieces from Freud’s collection of antiquities, his desk and his family. Once the aged researcher can be seen in the reading chair by the open window, while his wife Martha is standing behind him, putting her hands on his shoulders as if to protect them.


Film excerpts also bring the psychoanalytic circle of friends to life, such as Sandor Ferenczi, Karl Abraham and Marie Bonaparte, a great-grandniece of Napoleon. With German subtitles, her sentences are spoken in French by Catherine Deneuve, Birgit Minichmayr lends her voice to Anna Freud, Johannes Silberschneider, who seems a bit too melancholic, speaks Freud. Bridge-building comments from the off join the quotations only sparingly.

(In the Berlin cinemas Bundesplatz, Capitol, Cinema Paris, Delphi Lux, Eva-Lichtspiele, Filmkunst 66, Filmtheater Friedrichshain)

Bonaparte had sought treatment from Freud in 1925, who carried his teaching to France and made it possible for the Freuds to go into exile. We also owe the wealthy analyst rare film footage in color, made in Vienna, Paris and London. The private photos of the stay of the Freud family, who stopped by Marie Bonaparte in Paris on their journey into exile, are particularly touching.

In the hours spent on their terrace, the exhausted, already seriously ill Freud enjoyed a return of the “dignity” that forced departure had robbed him of. The wealth of images and texts seems to contrast with the meditative style of Teboul’s collage. She succeeds in the paradox of lighting up the magic of enlightenment by also addressing the unconscious. The film has what it takes to raise fertile questions for more joy.