Near the end of the 1920’s, and as far as German Expressionism’s “New Objectivity” (Neue Sachlichkeit)-style was concerned [focusing on realism, public-engagement and social issues, as opposed to the self-indulgent, intellectual ‘surrealism of ‘traditional’ Expressionism], Pabst was clearly this new art-movement’s cinematic ambassador. This was exhibited through his series of progressive, highly topical films dedicated to the portrayal of troubled women, and their plights in German society.
Secrets of a Soul- Dream sequence with Werner Krauss (1926)
In keeping in this tradition, Pabst’s 1926, Freudian, psychological-drama, Secrets of a Soul, deals with the marital problems a happy, but childless, couple start to face when the husband- played by UFA veteran and master of creepy characters, Werner Krauss (Dr Caligari)- starts to have nightmares in which he visualizes his wife- played by the ever-sultry Ruth Weyher (Warning Shadows)- and her dashing young cousin, in ‘compromising’ situations. The nightmares started when a local murder coincides with a visit from the cousin –played by suave, English actor Jack Trevor. The husband’s inner torment eventually manifests itself in a bizarre fear of any, and all, knives! It’s when he starts to visualizes himself stabbing his wife, that he then decides it’s time to seek professional help.
Secrets of a soul – Dream sequence with Werner Krauss(1926)
This is when the film starts to get really interesting; most of all in the way the film tackles the subject of psychoanalysis. From here on the film focuses on the dialogue between the husband and his therapist. Don’t forget the film was made in a time when most people hadn’t even heard of psychoanalysis, let alone know how it was administered. Pabst goes into great detail to illustrate to his audience how exactly this revolutionary new wonder-treatment worked.
Curiously enough, one of the team of writers for Secrets Of A Soul was an important and influential German psychoanalyst, and colleague of Sigmund Freud. As far as the plot’s concerned, I think I’ll leave it there so as not to spoil it too much for you.
I will say, however, that what I especially liked about this film is that, unlike other films from Pabst’s New Objectivity series, in Secrets Of A Soul he pays homage to his ‘traditional’ expressionism roots through a number beautifully filmed, highly-stylized, dream and fantasy sequences, synonymous with the spirit of the early expressionist cinema. Available online and DVD from the KINO collection. 8/10
This link to stream the whole movie is working as of 02/01/15: