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Nietzsche in Film
When Nietzsche Wept.When Nietzsche Wept [2007]
Director: Pinchas Perry.
Screenwriter: Pinchas Perry.
Adapted from the novel by Irvin D. Yalom.
Cinematographer: Georgi Nikolov.
Production: Millennium Films.
Plot: Viennese doctor Josef Breuer and philosopher
Friedrich Nietzsche swap therapies to treat their maladies.



Cast:
Armand Assante ... Friedrich Nietzsche.
Ben Cross ... Josef Breuer.
Joanna Pacula ... Mathilda Breuer.
Jamie Elman ... Sigmund Freud.
Rachel O'Meara ... Frau Becker.
Katheryn Winnick ... Lou Salomé.
Michal Yannai ... Bertha.

If you can make it through the first 25 minutes without lacing your popcorn with arsenic — where Nietzsche is depicted as a migraine-ridden, slovenly whoremonger, and Katheryn Winnick tackles her role of Lou Salomé with dee vurst komeekal Roosian accent since Natasha's confrontations with Rocky and Bullwinkle — you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

Returning from hospital, stomach freshly-pumped, we grit our teeth, plop in the DVD, and return to the spectacle. At first glance, what is striking about this attempt to highlight Nietzsche is the spaghetti against the wall tactic: let's throw into the plot every personal fact we think we know about him and hope that something "telling" sticks. Thus we get the headaches, whores and psychedelic dreams, all more apropos to an 80s' punk video than anything remotely resembling a veiled biopic. There is also a smattering of favorite catchphrases when Pinchas Perry deems it appropriate to move the story along. However, to be fair, we really don't know that much about Nietzsche's personal life other than what he wished to reveal. Still, a cursory dip into Curt Paul Janz's crushingly epic biography shows us a fastidious man trapped in a decaying body, a perfumed philosopher crammed into the decrepit surroundings of a pensionnaire. It would be more fitting, not to mention more fun, to portray this mask of perceived nobility slowly melting away under the heat of failing health and poverty than what we get here, which is more of an ode to a conversationalist on the road to catatonia.

Armand Assante (Nietzsche) plays an off-putting character, everything slightly askew — from his attire to the requisite 'stache — but the material he has to work with inhibits any tension on screen, i.e., that of a man breaking down and breaking apart while still producing astounding philosophical works. Assante once pulled this off perfectly years ago, with his portrayal of the cuckolded conductor in the remake of Sturges' Unfaithfully Yours, but never really gets the chance to fulfill that promise. Instead, he is limited to carrying around some mangy burden that can only be lifted by interacting with his doctor, Joseph Breuer (Ben Cross), a peevish, bourgeois Viennese physiologist with a failing marriage and an obsession for a female patient. Breuer suggests a Swiss spa for the philosopher's stress and offers to treat him gratis, which only arouses Nietzsche's suspicions about the doctor's motives. Breuer then discloses his need for treatment of his own mental despair, and the two finally agree to attempt a mutual healing process.

The doctor's subsequent discussions with his young friend Sigmund Freud (Jamie Elman) — who with a display of pleasant equanimity, comes off as the only genuine person in the entire movie — center around integrating Nietzsche's conscious and unconscious drives to alleviate his suffering. At the Lauzon Clinic, Breuer reveals his past affair with his patient Bertha (Michal Yannai), and Nietzsche submits that this despair hinges on her power over him. He then suggests that the doctor lie down on the couch for an effective way of recalling memories, and as Breuer later relates the story to his friend Freud, we see the alleged birth of psychoanalysis.

Meanwhile, Nietzsche soon discovers that something is rotten in the state of Breuer-land, as the affluent yet dissatisfied doctor laments his bourgeois malaise, lust, as well as the ultimate obsession that drives all men to despair. Bertha's parting words "you will always be the only man in my life" worm their way into him, and he resorts to turning the tables and delving into Nietzsche's own failures at love. At this point, nothing could be more risible than Assante responding meekly like a church mouse, getting in touch with his feminine side, as it were. Acknowledging it, surely, overcoming it, certainly, but puhlease ... He then recovers and likewise does his worst, exposing Breuer's own sugar-coated obsession in the harshest light.

The movie wanders around this theme of emotional one-upmanship all in the service of that psychological panacea called friendship, as you wonder if you forgot to let the dog out and stare longingly at the arsenic on the counter. But with a sigh and a self-reprimand, let us say that, at its core, When Nietzsche Wept isn't really about the philosopher at all. It could have been entitled "When Joe Shlabotnik Wept," but no one outside of a few devotees of Charles Schultz would get the reference, or even care. It's really a paean to psychoanalysis and the so-called "talking cure": the fact that Nietzsche participates in the conversation is mere window-dressing. Witness the opening university "lecture" in which he espouses opinions he would only express many years after he retired from teaching due to ill health. When Nietzsche Wept doesn't confuse us with the facts — for they would just get in the way of the fiction, and a poor interpretation at that.

Friedrich Nietzsche: un voyage philosophique [2001]
A film by Alain Jaubert.
Coproduction: ARTE France, Palette Production.
Language: French.
Nietzsche texts interpreted by Lars Rudolf.
Commentary by Christian Rist and Nicolas Fournier.

The film is divided into twelve segments: 1. Le seigneur sans patrie. 2. Apollon ou Dionysos. 3. Sans la musique. 4. La grande santé. 5. Le voyageur et son ombre. 6. Le méchant Socrate. 7. L’éternel retour. 8. Deux démons. 9. Un livre pour tous et pour personne. 10. Antisémite! 11. Je suis de la dynamite. 12. Aux environs de l’an 2000.

Each segment contains interviews with writers and philosophers: Jean-Pierre Faye, Barbara Cassin, Rudiger Safranski, Roberto Calasso, Vincent Descombes and Georges Liebert.
Watch Movie (Youtube).

Dias de Nietzsche em Turim.Dias de Nietzsche em Turim [2001]
"Nietzsche's Days in Turin."
Director: Júlio Bressane.
Screenwriters: Júlio Bressane and Rosa Dias.
Cinematographer: José Tadeu Ribeiro.
Production: Grupo Novo de Cinema e TV.
Plot: Traces Nietzsche's final working days before his collapse in Turin.


Cast:
Fernando Eiras ... Friedrich Nietzsche.
Paulo José.
Leandra Leal.
Tina Novelli.
Isabel Themudo.
Paschoal Villaboin.
Mariana Ximenes.
Language: Portuguese.
Premiered at 2001 Venice Film Festival.
Watch Movie (Youtube).

Unfortunately, this movie and the one below are infamous in one respect: with deft manipulation and reconstruction of Hans Olde's still photos from 1889, they created another internet legend about Nietzsche. It's not actual film footage of the incapacitated philosopher.

Elisabeths Wille [2000]
"Rekonstruierte Sequenzen."
Weimar 2000: Video-Presentation.
Production: Stiftung Weimar Klassik — Besucherfilm.
Script: Sabine Schirdewahn.
Special effects: Lutz Garmsen.
Hand-crank camera: Jürgen Rumbuchner.
Director: Sabine Schirdewahn, Sven Hain.




Cast:
Friedrich Nietzsche ... Alfred Hartung.
Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche ... Helga K. Männche-Kolb.

Special effects film based on Hans Olde's 1899 photography. See Renate Reschke, "Vom Schein der Authentizität. Elisabeths Wille von Sabine Schirdewahn im Kontext früher Nietzsche-Fotografien." In: Nietzsche im Film: Projektionen und Götzendämmerungen. Volker Gerhardt, Renate Reschke. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2009: 79-100. [Series: Nietzscheforschung. Band 16.]
Watch Movie (wmv).

Zarathustra's Drunken Song [2000]
A film by Stephen Blauweis and Tali Makell.
Language: English-version narrated by Fritz Weaver.
Premiered in Sils-Maria, Switzerland in Fall 2000.

Friedrich Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil.Friedrich Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil [1999]
Part of the series Human, All Too Human:
Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre
.
Director: Simon Chu.
Originally produced for television broadcast (BBC) in 1999.
This video can be found at many libraries.
Also ripped on YouTube.



Friedrich Nietzsche [1987]
Part of the series Great Philosophers.
Discussion between Bryan Magee and J. P. Stern.
Language: English.
Originally produced for television broadcast (BBC) in 1987.
This video can be found at many libraries.
Also ripped on YouTube.

Al di là del bene e del male.Al di là del bene e del male [1977]
Also Known As:
Oltre il Bene e il Male (Italy).
Au-delà du bien et du mal (France).
Beyond Good and Evil (USA).
Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Germany).
Seeds of Evil (Australia: video title).
Director: Liliana Cavani.
Screenwriters: Franco Arcalli, Liliana Cavani, Italo Moscati.
Cinematographer: Armando Nannuzzi.
Production: Clesi Cinematografica.




Cast:
Dominique Sanda ... Lou Andreas-Salomé.
Erland Josephson ... Friedrich Nietzsche.
Robert Powell ... Paul Rée.
Virna Lisi ... Elisabeth Nietzsche.
Michael Degen ... Karl Andreas.
Elisa Cegani ... Franziska Nietzsche.
Umberto Orsini ... Bernard Förster.
Philippe Leroy-Beaulieu ... Peter Gast.
Carmen Scarpitta ... Malvida.
Nicoletta Machiavelli ... Amando.
Amedeo Amodio ... Dott. Dulcaman.
Watch Movie (Youtube, with — ugh — Spanish subtitles).

A Disciple of Nietzsche [1915]
Silent film.
Scenario: Philip Lonergan.
Production: Thanhouser Film Corporation.
Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc.

Cast:
Marshall Welch ... The Professor
Lorraine Huling ... The Professor's Daughter
Florence LaBadie ... The Factory Girl
Harris Gordon ... The Gangster
Boyd Marshall ... The Factory Foreman

This anti-eugenic drama, released in September 1915, was inspired by H. L. Mencken's 1908 book, The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, from which Lonergan quotes verbatim in his scenario. Unfortunately, no copies of the film have survived.

A detailed plot summary is in the newspaper, "The Moving Picture World," 1915:2246-47 (click below), while a more recent but brief synopsis appears in Martin S. Pernick, The Black Stork. Eugenics and the Death of "Defective" Babies in American Medicine and Motion Pictures Since 1915. Oxford University Press: New York, 1996:131. Both sources fail to attribute the purported Nietzschean text in the scenario to Mencken. For more reviews of the film from 1915, see Q. David Bowers, Thanhouser Films: An Encyclopedia and History.

A DISCIPLE OF NIETZSCHE (Three Parts—Sept. 25).— The cast: Marshall Welch, Lorraine Huling, Florence LaBadie, Harris Gordon and Boyd Marshall.

One of those who has had much to do with changing the history of the world is Friedrich Nietzsche, the great German philosopher. To his mind only strong people of great ability were of any consequence, while those of mediocre ability were deserving of little consideration. "That the lifting up of the weak, in the long run, is an unprofitable and useless business," said the great philosopher, "is evident upon very brief reflection. Philanthropy, considered largely, is inevitably a failure. Nothing is more potent, indeed, than the fact that charity merely converts the unfit — who, in the course of nature, would soon die out and so cease to encumber the earth — into parasites — who live on indefinitely, a nuisance and a burden to their betters." [See Mencken, pp. 107-08.]

These sentiments found ready approval in the mind of a well known scholar, an American professor of philosophy. The professor's daughter became interested in settlement work, but the scholar refused to become interested in it. When his daughter brought a factory girl, ill and weak, to his home, he objected, but finally was induced to permit the factory girl to remain in the house. The daughter's protege was not a skilful seamstress, and when several handsome gowns had been ruined by her carelessness, the professor decided to interfere. He told his daughter that the factory girl was "one of the unfit." The daughter refused to let the factory girl go, but the latter's price was stung by the professor's words and she left the house of her own accord. In the hard struggle for livelihood which followed, a member of a gang of criminals tempted her with his ill-gotten gains, but she rejected him scornfully. While engaged in her settlement work, the rich girl was seen by the gangster. The man knew she was wealthy and determined to win her. Soon after, the young settlement worker came upon two roughly-dressed men who were about to attack a cripple. She ran to the victim's assistance, but the men scornfully thrust her aside, then the "rescuer" arrived in the person of a burly young man who knocked the two bullies down and then assisted the cripple to his feet. The "rescuer" was the gangster, and the cripple and the two other men were members of the gang. The gangster had carried the plan out in order to make a favorable impression upon the rich girl and succeeded admirably. Even when she learned that he was a desperate criminal and had served sentences in state's prison, she did not shrink from him, for hadn't he promised to come to the settlement school and learn to be a better man?

In the meantime a new foreman came to the factory where the working girl was employed. He was an earnest, hard working young man, and a sincere attachment soon sprang up between him and the girl, which culminated in their engagement and the planning of an early marriage. At the settlement the gangster was a model "pupil." Awaiting a favorable opportunity he told her of his love, then spoke of his evil life of the past, working so skillfully upon her sympathies that he won her promise to be his wife. The professor was stunned when he received the news. In his hour of sorrow he remembered a quotation of Nietzsche which seemed to mock him. "The strong must grow stronger," said Nietzsche, "and that they may do so, they must waste no strength in the vain task of trying to lift up the weak." [See Mencken, p. 103.]

"She is weak," the father said to himself, "but she is my daughter, and I will not see her led astray." It was the little factory girl whom the scholar had despised who came to him in his hour of need. She told him that she had heard of her [sic] daughter's infatuation for the gangster and confirmed his suspicions regarding the man. She told the professor to call with his daughter at her home that night. That evening the professor and his daughter called at the two little tenement rooms which served the working girl as a home. The rich girl was sullen and suspicious of her father and the [PAGE 2247] other girl, but finally agreed to wait with her father in the next room and see for herself whether her suspicions were justified.

The working girl had pretended to the gangster that his attentions were pleasing to her, and had consented to his calling upon her in the evening. He did so, and she questioned him, drawing this admission from him that he cared nothing for the rich girl, and only wanted to get some of her money, as he had a wife in a nearby city and could not marry. In the next room the professor and his daughter listened, and the little settlement worker, thoroughly disillusioned, realizes how she had been deceived. Suddenly the hall door opened and the young foreman appeared. He saw the woman he loved apparently accepting the attentions of the gangster. A fight ensued between the two men, and the ex-convict sank to theentrance of the professor and his daughter halted him, and when he heard the truth he begged his sweetheart's forgiveness. The gangster slunk out of the door. The professor and his daughter looked at the reconciled couple.


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