Young Dr. Freud

This 1977 biopic, made for Austrian TV, covers the first half of Sigmund Freud's life, concluding with the publication of his epochal The Interpretation of Dreams. Appropriately enough, it's told in flashback, as an offscreen voice (screenwriter Georg Stefan Troller) puts the young doctor (a brooding Karlheinz Hackl) through analysis, posing questions about his emotions and motives. The narrative device works only fitfully, allowing Troller to string together highlights from a mostly intellectual chronicle; he covers Freud's impoverished childhood, his long courtship of Martha Bernays, his apprenticeships with neuroclinicians Josef Breuer and Jean-Martin Charcot, his intense friendship with nose-and-throat specialist Wilhelm Fliess, and the emergence of his psychoanalytic theory. Aided by gorgeous, low-key black-and-white cinematography, director Axel Corti meticulously re-creates fin de siecle Vienna and its stuffy, anti-Semitic bourgeoisie, fraught with repressions awaiting discovery and cure. The film tends toward the didactic, though whenever Freud plunges into his investigation of sex and dreams it becomes enthralling. 99 min.

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