A man is scared that he is going to kill his wife. He can’t touch knives or scissors without thinking about killing her. He wanders the streets in order to not go home to see her. What brought upon these thoughts? Why did he seem to be happy with his wife one day and the next scared that he was going to kill her? What is causing his violent and abstract nightmares? G.W. Pabst explores the possibilities through this film and through one other medium that was gaining prominence during this time: psychoanalysis.
This film could have acted as a recruiting video for Freud’s theories and therapy sessions. He goes through everything that Freud hypothesizes in his books in a matter of just a couple of days. There is an inciting incident with a woman getting killed nearby, he accidentally cuts his wife’s neck with a pair of scissors, he has nightmares involving his wife, their friend and a series of trains and Buddhas, he can’t touch a knife, looks at his wife funny, and does other what would seem to be crazy things. Then he happens to run into a psychoanalyst (apparently they are everywhere in Germany. You could probably throw a coin into a crowd and hit at least a couple) and he decides to move out of his own, move in with his mother and get psychoanalysis for months.
I don’t know if you could tell from my typing my boredom with such a concept, but let me reiterate how incredibly bored I was with this film. The only interesting part of the film was the nightmares themselves and it was because he used imagery that Dali and Bunuel employed in Un Chien Andalou (only a more sanitized version). This film gets a big “eh” from me. I think I might be done trying out Pabst’s films. I don’t think I enjoyed one of them.