Lou Andreas-Salomé, The Audacity to Be Free is an awkward mouthful of a title, but this biographical study of a trailblazing nineteenth-century intellectual offers a worthwhile history lesson. The first female psychoanalyst, Lou Andreas-Salomé sought out educational pursuits starting in her teenage years, writing books and forming personal and professional relationships with Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Sigmund Freud. The film finds the elderly Salomé (Nicole Heesters) recounting her story to a young man writing her biography. The period settings are suitably lovely, and flashbacks are introduced with images of the young Salomé walking through postcards, which sounds gimmicky, but actually serves as a rather clever and aesthetically pleasing transitional device. Less successful is a godly apparition that appears to Salomé: As a child, she sees God while praying, and the image of him is made of such shoddy-looking CGI that it feels like kitsch in an otherwise serious film. For most of the runtime, Salomé is played by Katharina Lorenz, who brings a pleasing confidence to the role.
Salomé is a bold, feminist figure, to be sure, but she’s also presented as an intellectual dream girl — pretty much every man she encounters seems to be in love with her, which may be accurate, given the rarity of women devoting themselves to philosophy at the time. Salomé would be better served by a story that focuses more explicitly on her intellectual life rather than on her personal one, but considering how stodgy biopics can be, Lou Andreas-Salomé, The Audacity to Be Free offers a mostly engaging portrait of a charismatic and brilliant figure.
Lou Andreas-Salomé, The Audacity to Be Free
Written and directed by Cordula Kablitz-Post
Opens April 20, Village East Cinema
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 17, 2018