When Nietzsche Wept

Just saw the movie last night. The main idea is that Lou Salome is worried about the mental state of her friend Nietzsche, and asks Josef Breuer (a physician beginning to dabble in psychoanalysis) and his friend young Sigmund Freud to help him out of his despair. Breuer has problems of his own, and Nietzsche ends up doctoring the doctor, doctoring himself along the way.

I have to say it is not that great of a movie. Parts are very good: the sessions where Nietzsche is probing away at Breuer are brilliant. Some of the dialogue gets kind of silly, and the whole thing isn’t all that engrossing. I liked the character Nietzsche, though he really didn’t square with my own image of Nietzsche: this character (played by Armand Assante) is very virile, scruffy (almost slovenly), somewhat brash, and unconcerned of other people’s opinions. My own picture, drawn from all that reading, is that Nietzsche was very neat and tidy (at least in public), aristocratically mannered and soft-spoken, and somewhat timid around other people. The character squares better with what Nietzsche should have been, maybe; Nietzsche himself was only “übermenschlich” through his pen. But it was arresting at times to see in the movie images very like what one would have seen, had one been walking around Europe in 1882 or so. Assante, from the side and back, looks just like dear old Fritz.

Though I’d like to see a movie more closely paralleling Nz’s real life, I wonder whether it would be enjoyable to anyone other than crazed Nietzscheans like myself. Most of the drama was internal — not an easy sort of excitement to capture on film.

The BBC put together a decent documentary on Nietzsche, available in multi-part installments on YouTube here. The actor doesn’t look at all like Nietzsche, but the settings and scenary are perfect, and it’s a good account of his thinking.

POSTSCRIPT: That claim about Nz not being “übermenschlich” wasn’t fair. He suffered terribly, and managed by the end to be grateful for his life. And he worked like hell to overcome his own limitations. There. I feel so much better.

About Huenemann

Curious about the ways humans use their minds and hearts to distract themselves from the meaninglessness of life.
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