What do you know about Lou Andreas-Salomé? Born in 1861 in St. Petersburg, Russia, she grew up to be a writer and the world’s first woman psychoanalyst. In this German import, written and directed by Cordula Kaplitz-Post, we are swept into the life of Andreas-Salomé in her later years and in flashbacks over the trajectory of her turbulent, ground-breaking life, including coming under the influence of Sigmund Freud.
It is a dramatic period, right up until the time when she is threatened by arrest under the Nazis and wants to burn her papers to keep them from being discovered. It takes different actresses to portray her at various ages in this sprawling film. The film is anchored by Nicole Heesters as Andreas-Salomé at the age of 71. But as her saga unfolds we also meet her as a child, played by Helena Pieske, in the person of Liv Lisa Fries at 16 and Katharina Loren from 21-50.
What makes the film especially interesting, in addition to her personal life and problems, is the interaction with famous persons of the time, including poet Rainer Maria Rilke (Julius Feldmeier), philosophers Paul Rée (Philipp Haub) and Friedrich Nietzsche (Alexander Scheer).
The film gets off to its dramatic start when publisher Ernst Pfeiffer (Matthias Lier) approaches her in 1933 at her home in Gõttingen, Germany, ostensibly to get psychiatric help, but has another personal motive. He winds up helping to write her memoirs. Given that he somehow reminds her of Rilke, whom she loved, the set-up is a jumping off point into the past.
We are privy to her background, her rejection of the church, her not wanting to marry and the relationships she has along the way, including her fraught friendship with Rée and the evolving of her writing career. You’ll be struck by how much is packed into this bio-pic.
The strongest aspect comes from the excellent portrayal of the protagonist from the later perspective, as enacted by the impressive Heesters, who leaves us best remembering the mature portrait of Andreas-Salomé. But the entire film adds up to putting a spotlight on a pioneering psychoanalyst who should be better known to the general public, especially in this time of focusing on the achievements of women. A Cinema Libre Studio release. Reviewed April 20, 2018.