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Shock Head Soul (2011) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • In 1903 Daniel Paul Schreber published the most celebrated autobiography of madness 'from the inside' ever written. Shock Head Soul interleaves documentary interviews, fictional re-construction and CGI animation to portray his story. Daniel Paul Schreber was a successful lawyer who, in 1893, started to receive messages from God via a Writing Down Machine that spanned the cosmos. He spent the next 9 years confined to an asylum: tortured by delusions of cosmic control, suffering the belief that he was shifting gender and that his body was subjected to cruel 'miracles'. Schreber believed that only his submission to God's plan to change him into a woman would save the world. During his confinement he wrote Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, which has earned him lasting fame as an outsider artist, it allowed him to argue that that his belief system was a matter of religious freedom and that he was sane enough to return to society. Running as a recurrent motif through the film is an imaginary Writing Down Machine inspired by both the delusory writing down systems envisioned by Schreber and also the Hansen Writing Ball. This early visionary design for a typewriter is famous because Nietzsche used such a machine to compose reflections on the relationship between writing and technology. The film's mix of forms explores the borderline between religious vision and deluded fanaticism, and the intimate link between family secrets, psychiatric diagnosis, and our societal understanding of mental illness.


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