Born 1861, Lou Andreas Salomé shuns tradition in pursuit of intellectual perfection, inflaming the hearts and minds of the 19th century's greatest thinkers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Sigmund Freud.
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Lou Andreas-Salomé, the woman who enraptured 19th century Europe's greatest minds, recounts her life to Ernst Pfeiffer in this German film directed by Cordula Post-Kablutz. A published novelist, poet and essayist, Salomé's desire to live a life free from convention scandalized society but spurred genius and passion in others, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Paul Rée and her lover, the poet Rainer Marie Rilke. Under the tutelage of Sigmund Freud, she became the first female psychoanalyst.
For those looking to learn about one of the most prolific proto-feminists in Europe at the turn of the century, the story of Lou Salome hits all of the marks. Like protestant England, Germany was "Victorian" to the point of institutionalizing the silencing of intellectual women. They were good for marriage and children and hosting social gatherings. Salome refused to wear any such traditional shackles and though it caused scandal after scandal, she remained single and childless, writing philosophical and psychological works that have since been nearly forgotten (and nearly lost), but are surprisingly still relevant today. The film is artfully directed, with strong period acting, and deep set decoration. There are several scenes with quick philosophical repartee that may seem heavy to those unfamiliar with the arguments, but for those with some philosophical background, they are a pleasure to hear. Salome was surrounded by adoring men-- Ree, Nietzsche, Andreas, Rilke, Jung, Freud-- but she sacrificed romantic involvement in favor of intellectual fulfillment, the main exception being Rilke. Later in life, she dated freely, like a man would, apologizing for nothing. She was admired for her intelligence and style in the salons of Vienna, Rome, and Berlin, and was a match for any man she encountered. The narrative has a few slow points, like most period dramas, but overall it's an inspiration that this film got made. It will likely send the curious to read more about her life and works. Like most historical biopics, the more you know going in, the more rewarding this portrayal becomes.
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