Shock Head Soul (2012) *

October 30th, 2012
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director/Script: Simon Pummell

Producers: Bruno Felix, Janine Marmot, Femke Wolting

Cast: Hugo Koolschijn, Anniek Pheifer, Thom Hoffman, Jochum ten Haaf, Ian Christie

Netherlands/UK              Docudrama                86mins

Famous in the world of Psychoanalysis, Daniel Paul Schreber was a lawyer who, in 1893, believed he had started to receive messages from God, through a ‘Writing Down Machine’. Over the next nine years, consigned what one might consider barbaric treatments by today’s standards, inside an asylum, he kept a journal of his journey.  Shock Head Soul splices interviews with eminent psychoanalysts, fictional reconstruction, CGI and text from Schreber’s celebrated book ‘Memoirs Of My Nervous Illness’.

There is no doubt in my mind that Schreber’s original journals must indeed be astonishing reading and an amazing insight into ‘madness’, or a form thereof. However, dramatic reconstructions of events, if they are not dramatic, can fold over very quickly into the dull.

Drama, by its very nature, has to be dramatic. I have a sense that the filmmaker may have been a little too in awe of the subject matter and failed to step outside it enough to create something more engaging for an audience keen to gain an insight into the man. Watching an actor acting mad, however good the period costumes are, is still not of itself ‘dramatic’ or indeed, interesting, if subjected to it for extended periods, without the narrative moving forward. Likewise extended CGI sequences of animated floaty objects.

The distinguished cast of genuine analysts given rein to expound their own -and Freud’s- theories, came across as awkward, as they were all dressed up as they were in Victorian garb and placed in a Court as if to give professional opinion. But as none of them were actors, simply dressing them in the period was not enough to convince that they were at all of the time.

Perhaps of interest to serious devotees of Schreber, but even then, I still suspect not. There simply wasn’t enough to keep one engaged or interested on any level; intellectually, visually, or dramatically. AT

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