falderal : a moving images blog
Geheimnisse einer Seele (Secrets of a Soul) ; 1926  ·  Posted by Tallulah

Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst (G.W. Pabst)
Actors: Werner Krauss, Ruth Weyher, Jack Trevor, Pavel Pavlov, Hertha von Walther
Country: Germany

I have watched this film last semester and while finding it comical at times, I did enjoy it. When I rewatched it, I really enjoyed the cinematography once again and was amazed how Pabst did some of the effects. The way scenes were filmed such as having the dream scene be filmed in an incredibly surreal manner, flashbacks being filmed usually with a plain, white background (ref. Picture 3), and everything else looking as if it was set in location. The flashbacks/memories have somewhat of a surreal touch and I guess the white background sort of adds to that as well. Although I am no fan of psychoanalysis and Freud, this film is worth a watch for the cinematographic techniques and the visuals. The story is a bit bland, but it does give the viewer a taste of what psychoanalysis is.

My favourite scene would definitely have to be the dream scene, hands down. Every section of the dream is so well done that I wonder how Pabst filmed such things. There are some crazy things going on like a gate that grows really high, the husband (Krauss) flying and then getting shot down (this scene and one of the scenes from Lang’s Metropolis still confuses me because I don’t understand how they filmed it), a montage of his wife (Weyher) and friend/wife’s cousin, and the baby coming out of the river are… surreal. I really can’t come up with another word to describe the dream scene. My personal favourite out of all these has to be when the bells turn into heads. I can’t really figure out who the head on left belongs to (I think it’s either a nurse or someone who works in his house), but the one in the center is his wife and the one on the right is his assistant (Walther). When I first saw the scene, I almost yelped because it creeped me out and it really must have been a terrifying thing to see because apparently the laughter was something that the protagonist (the husband) couldn’t get out of his head. I wish that I can supply more screencaps from this film, but then it would just crowd up the entry. Oh well. Going on, the dream really brings together events from past, present, and his unconscious because the presents he received from his wife’s cousin (Trevor) are in the scene, the creepy doll/baby reflects the protagonist’s want for a child but also reflects a scene from his childhood, the totally crazy wife-stabbing scene triggers the protagonist’s fear of knives, his jealousy over his wife’s cousin, and his odd impulse to kill his wife.

Throughout the film there are various motifs, repetitions and recreation of certain scenes, and symbolism. The very first motif in this film would be knives. The very first shot of the movie is of the husband’s razor and whenever there is a knife/sharp object in the scene, it is always emphasized with an insert shot. Most of the time, the ones that usually have an insert shot are shown twice: the first time is when the husband isn’t scared of them and the second time is when the husband is afraid to touch or see them. So what could this mean? It seems silly to be scared of knives, right? This is when the psychoanalytic part comes in. His fear of knives symbolize his insecurity about his masculinity. Out of all the knives, the one that the cousin gives him is the biggest and longest one and his jealousy of his wife’s cousin is exposed later in the film. This could be tied into him being insecure because he still does not have a child and of course, the knife can be a phallic symbol. In Picture 3, the shadow you see is of the cousin and notice where his head is? Yes, between the wife’s legs! And then it cuts to the husband’s face where he look uncomfortable to see the shadow. In addition to the whole knife = masculinity argument, his fear of knives makes him even less masculine because he becomes a little kid who can’t take care of himself. His mother has to cut his food for him when he isn’t there and on top of that, she cuts them into little pieces!
Now that I think about it, a lot of the motifs refer to the husband’s want for a child and not having one, which connects to his masculinity. I can list quite a few, but I’ll just discuss one more! The prison bars/gates in the dream scene prevent the husband from going to certain places, particularly places where his wife and her cousin are. Gates would prevent him from going near his wife and her cousin multiple times in the main dream scene and in his other one where his wife is part of an orgy-like scene. In a scene of the present, there is a scene when the husband returns home and the psychoanalyst says that he looks reluctant to go back to his own house. The gate is what separates him from his wife and her cousin inside the house. Maybe he doesn’t want to go because he’s scared that he’ll see them together like he saw in his dream. Another thought I had was that the gate was also a symbol of how he will reach his cure. By meeting the psychoanalyst and having the psychoanalyst returning the key so that he can go home, the psychoanalyst is “opening the gate” to his cure. Just a thought.
And talking about symbolism, see Picture 1 because the tree represents the couple’s marriage and their hopes for a child, but while the tree grows, they don’t have a real child.

And of course, can you have a Stephany post without a superficial remark? NEVER! My crush on Hertha von Walther started when I saw her in an earlier Pabst film (Die freudlose Gasse) but she looked even sexier in this film! Look at that smirk! It’s such a shame that her films aren’t available to the public because I would like to see more of her. I also have a huge crush on Ruth Weyher as well and when I first watched this film, I didn’t realize that she was the same actress from another film I really liked. Weyher is absolutely gorgeous and reminds me of Clara Bow, in looks. Both are defintely talented too! Oh, and Weyher has amazing eyebrows in this film… not like it matters… but hey, I’m also the girl who told her professor that she can tell Zarah Leander right away in pictures due to her “distinct eyelashes”. *facepalm*

Anyway, I can go on and on analyzing this film but this post is long enough! But I should address the ending. It looks tacked on although one can see the techniques Pabst used in his earlier films being used in this film as well such as slow motion and using a hand-held camera. Although Pabst did a fabulous job directing this film (I loved the way all the scenes were set up and the actors were superb), the ending was a complete “WTF?!” moment for me. Yes, it’s obvious that the husband was cured because he finally has a child, but really? I thought the film could do without the epilogue. And the whole symbolism about water is repeated and then he catches a lot of fish, symbolizing… well, fertility and having lots of babies. But what threw me off the second time was that he drops the bucket of fish in excitement when his wife comes out of with their kid. First of all, yeah parents get excited to see their kids at times, but to the extent to drop something? And he has seen his child before, so why get overly excited? Second, in the earlier part of the film, the husband drops a test tube when he hears the news that his wife’s cousin has arrived. He looks happy to hear the news, but we all know that he is unconsciously jealous of him. The psychoanalyst says that such a response to the news was a sign that something wasn’t right, thus does that mean that something is still wrong with the husband when he dropped the bucket of fish?

I’m going to shut up now, but I think that this is a great Pabst film to watch. I’m doing a Pabst marathon so I’ll be posting about him quite often. I’m also reading scholarly articles on each film I watch, so maybe I’ll come back and post about this film again (sort of like a part two to this post). Also, I highly recommend that you read Herr Ferdinand von Galitzien’s post on this film as well; it’s much shorter than my long winded entry and I think it’s a nice complement to this post.
Although the story is cheesy, watch it for the cinematography. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

PS: Did you notice something funny and odd in the first picture? No? Look at the upper area of the picture. See it? If not there is a picture of a reclining nude woman (her head is on the left, legs to the right). I didn’t notice it nor did any of my group members for a class presentation of Geheimnisse einer Seele presentation notice it, but my professor pointed it out; he said that he didn’t see it until the film was restored and it really is an interesting touch to the scene.

IMDb Link: Geheimnisse einer Seele
Where to buy: Kino Video, Amazon.com

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