“My patients…they’re all sick. But somehow it’s always the same – rich, bourgeoise people despairing of the world…and they have enough time not to just live in the here and now.”
David Rintoul is the father of modern psychotherapy and Emma Tate his earnest daughter (and future psychologist herself) Anna in these transliterations of Heiko Martens’ unusual German mysteries.
In The Second Face, a series of gruesome “vampire murders” haunt a Viennese stage production whose overemotional director could even be considered cruel…
“I killed my father. Who cares if I played with myself when I was a child?”
Then a prize nutter shows up seeking absolution of guilt…for murdering and dismembering his father the day before, in Father and Son. But the therapist’s couch is sacrosanct, so this cannot be reported to the authorities. Can Freud convince this madman to turn himself in?
While certainly playing in the same ballpark, there’s a bit more metacognitive truth emanating from this decidedly oedipal farce than the more obvious business of the “vampire murderer”.
There’s not a hell of a lot you can do with a therapist’s visit – even if the patients are confessed murderers – but for what’s being strived towards here, it’s not bad.
“You’ve achieved glory and honor on the battlefield. But the war is over.”
“I’m glad it’s over for you.”
Then a PTSD-afflicted veteran plays sniper on a city bell tower. Can Karl Gruber (Carl Prekopp) and Anna talk him down? Or must her famed father be called in to save the day?
Having grown up through an era of shellshocked Vietnam vets, films like Targets and the Washington sniper, this one’s also quite relevant. But like its predecessors, the handling of the case is rather dry and post facto, even by comparison with the likes of the arguably contemporary Holmes and the not far distant Poirot.
“And this made you uncomfortable?”
“ooooh, yesss…he kept asking me these sex questions…I felt completely undressed, just because of the way he looked at me. It’s as if I was lying there naked!”
“I would just like to clarify: did Professor Freud ever touch you in an offensive or lewd way, or seek sexual contact?”
“As a man, you wouldn’t know what it’s like…never physically, if that’s what you mean.”
Then it’s Take Back the Night: the 1800’s version, when a neurotic female patient gives in to a severe case of projection and transference, putting our hero on the stand as target of the prosecution.
Worse: the ugly spectre of racism joins the party, rearing its unwelcome head in parity with the lady’s faux-feminist hysteria…and then Carl Jung takes the stand…
“Having prejudices can be quite useful on occasion…makes thinking so much easier.”
Will reality…and psychological truth…prevail? Or will Freud’s practice be cut off in its prime?
“We also have to think about this from a sexual perspective.”
These stories are a decidedly strange beast. On one hand, we are discussing a quirky, perhaps even inspired variation on the tired from a century of use tropes of the detective story. But on the other…
There are elements that certainly do work. Rintoul bears a similar measure of prim authority to Julian Wadham’s John Steed, Prekopp’s Gruber remains boyishly earnest throughout and Tate’s Anna is both perky and quite loveable.
But there’s something of an unusual stiffness to the production, from the generic, overcompressed, nigh-computerized female tones announcing each episode to the oddly still nature of the narrative. Dialogue continues to move forward apace, but the adventures themselves feel quite silent and motionless – much like a trip through one’s life, taken entirely from the confines of the therapeutic couch.
The closest analogue I can reckon would be the mid-70’s BBC one room mystery productions, but to call this in any way akin to the likes of Brian Clemens’ excellent Thriller or even Armchair Theatre would do those earlier series a great disservice. Perhaps it’s the foreign origin that gives this overbearing strangeness – the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo bore a measure of similar Nordic stodginess and oddness, but there’s more to it than that.
The very sound feels somehow antiseptic, more cavernous, chilly and awash in reverb than a Scott Burns Morrisound production. In fact, there’s something of a morgue feel prevailing throughout, very much akin to the sound clips peppering the interstitials between tracks on Carcass’ Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious (!)
The effect is quite distancing, leaving the listener more detached and emotionless than just about any other audio line, particularly when compared against the generally overly warm toned orientation of a Big Finish production – and ultimately quite strange.
Through no fault of our three leads and their respective performances (which are really quite decent), something very basic and intrinsic just feels…off. And the rather bizarre “chats” between the disembodied and anthropomorphized “id” (Jess Robinson) and “superego” (Ashley Margolis), delivered to the accompaniment of swirling Ferrante & Teicher cum Richard Claydermanisms, don’t exactly help matters…
As the man himself would say, the merits hereof are entirely relative and decidedly subjective.
Speaking on a wholly rational and intellectual level, there is some definite interest to the father of psychotherapy effectively playing detective and solving murders and suchlike. But in practical terms…things become rather more questionable.
While I can honestly concur that there is some interest and curiosity aroused by the very audacity of the endeavor, the fact is that this is at least an extremely quirky, if not intrinsically flawed production. It’s ultimately your decision whether to pay a visit to Herr Freud’s couch or no.