Until recently, Sabina Spielrein was a footnote in psychoanalytic history. But in 1977, a box of her papers was discovered, including correspondence with Freud and Jung, leading to this new documentary from Elisabeth Marton, as well as Christopher Hampton’s play, “The Talking Cure,” which opened last month in London, and recent dramatic pic, “The Soul Keeper.” In her late teens, Spielrein had a breakdown and was placed in a clinic where she became an early patient of Jung … and then his lover. Eventually she went into the field herself, and some of her ideas may have been appropriated by her two more famous colleagues. Engaging doc should stir psychologists and feminists, and might attract broader audiences, particularly if narration is redubbed in English.
With almost no remaining pictures of Spielrein, Marton employs reenactments (mostly black-and-white) to supplement documents and a few photos. Still, the story is told primarily through narration, with the staged scenes as illustrations; Marton doesn’t try to draw the audience into dramatic scenes. Eva Osterberg plays Spielrein in most reenactments, but the nature of Marton’s narrative strategy only briefly requires her to do much.