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July 31, 2018

Lou Andreas-Salome: The Audacity to be Free

lou andreas-salome.jpg

Cordula Kablitz-Post - 2016
Cinema Libre Studio R1 DVD

This is an intimate biography of a woman perhaps more famous now for her various liaisons than for her novels or philosophical works. The film jumps between two threads, of Andreas-Salome narrating her memoirs to the man who would eventually save her surviving writings, and the years between childhood in St. Petersburg, Russia, and her first meetings with Sigmund Freud. What would be the film's present tense is in the immediate aftermath of Hitler's book burning and ban on art and literature deemed decadent, as well as the practice of psychoanalysis in 1933. The past is primarily the last quarter of the 19th Century, with the restrictive Russian childhood giving way to a more free form existence primarily in Germany, as Andreas-Salome has varying relationships with Rainer Maria Rilke and Friedrich Nietzsche, as well as less famous men.

I am unable to vouch for the historical veracity of the film, but counting on absolute accuracy in any biographical film is a foolish endeavor. What is probably of greater interest is of how Andreas-Salome lived her life as much on her own terms as possible. This meant her choice of being in committed, though platonic relationships with some men, while sexually involved with others. The film shows how Andreas-Salome navigated through the various social and familial expectations that were placed on her, as well as how her writings inspired both men and women regarding a woman's role in society.

Kablitz-Post does make the interesting choice of establishing several of the film's settings by inserting her characters in period postcards. Less successful for me is the literal representation of God as seen in a childhood memory, with fluffy white hair and long beard. Perhaps it can be argued that this is how a child might imagine God, yet it strikes me as problematic considering that Andreas-Salome spent her life questioning various aspects of Christianity, even as a child. There is also a scene where the very earnest Rilke, now a successful poet, tries to woo his muse by telling her that he can not sleep, breathe or basically exist without her as a permanent part of his life. I was ready for Rilke to burst into song with the old Barry Manilow hit, "Can't Smile without You".

The home video version comes with an interview with Kablitz-Post. This is her first narrative film following several documentaries, primarily for German television. I'm intrigued that one of Kablitz-Post's previous films is about the iconic German New Wave star, Nina Hagen, although others, I am certain, would be eager to see the documentary on actor Helmut Berger.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at July 31, 2018 10:09 AM