Shock Head Soul

“It has all the weirdness, cerebral depth, and envelope-pushing style that David Cronenberg’s otherwise estimable Jung-Freud face-off, A Dangerous Method, lacks.” — Leslie Felperin, Variety

Director: Simon Pummell
Year: 2011
Running time: 86 mins
Censor Rating: M - content may disturb

Screenplay: Simon Pummell. Inspired by Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by Daniel Paul Schreber
Producers: Janine Marmot, Femke Wolting, Bruno Felix
Photography: Reinier van Brummelen
Editor: Tim Roza
Music: Roger Goula
CinemaScope/HDCAM

With: Hugo Koolschijn, Anniek Pheifer, Thom Hoffman, Jochum ten Haaf, Chris Nietvelt, Paul Williams, Roger Kennedy, Clive Robinson, Ian Christie

Festivals: Venice, London 2011; Rotterdam 2012

How does an apparently sane, sober man – a judge, in fact – become a desperate, unpredictable one, plagued by terrifying visions? Daniel Paul Schreber differs from other 19th-century unfortunates in that he published a book about his experiences, Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, one of the most remarkable studies of madness ‘from the inside’ ever written. Schreber argued in court that his memoir was itself proof that he was a functioning member of society, despite all the mutant flying jellyfish typewriters swarming around him. His hallucinations fuel the film’s extraordinary cinematic visions, with matter-of-fact CGI intrusions and nightmarish distortions of perspective. But it’s more than just a (literal) head trip: Shock Head Soul also explores the social history of madness and its treatment. Contemporary academics (dressed in period costume), like Freud and Jung before them, analyse Schreber on the basis of his written testimony. Piece by piece, the film builds up an unforgettable portrait of the man, his madness and his times. — AL

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