Secrets of a Soul (1926) – G.W. Pabst

The next film in the What Else to Watch category for the fantastic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as featured in the massive The Movie Book from DK Books is the 1926 silent film, Secrets of a Soul.

A dark and moody film, taken from events in real life, the story follows a husband, Martin Fellman (Werner Krauss) who is haunted by a fear of knives and an almost irrepressible desire to murder his wife (Ruth Weyer).

Everything is precipitated by a terrible tragedy occurring next door, and as his terror follows him into his dream life, he turns to a doctor, Orth (Pavel Pavlov) for help. The doctor is determined to get to the root of the issue.

The dreams are pretty surreal, and are put together very well, with some imagery that almost verges on the disturbing, and would definitely be classified as a nightmare.

The dreams definitely suggest a truth he conscious mind has yet to comprehend, but something he definitely fears.

I think the story, and the suggestions of what is occurring in Martin’s life would be more believable if he and his wife actually shared a bed. But they don’t. It’s separate rooms all around, and consequently the story doesn’t have as strong an impact as it could.

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The tale is believed to be the first film to deal with psychoanalysis on screen, and took its cues from the works of Freud.

Despite the subject matter, the film is played for more of a drama than a thriller, and modern audiences may believe they know what is going on immediately,  even if Martin doesn’t realise it, but it’s now what the viewer thinks. For all that, it’s a rather enjoyable film, and the story is rather engaging.

The final third of the film is all an examination of Martin’s dreams by the doctor as we go through it step by step and decipher all the images and his behaviour since the fear began.

Of course a happy ending is prescribed, Martin is healed, lets go of his fear, and is able to relate to his wife again, as they retire to a mountain side cottage.

I suppose the moral of the story is that therapy is good for the soul.

This was a bit of a quieter film, and you wonder how it would work today, or say if 70s or 80s Brian DePalma maybe took a shot at it.

The journey through The Movie Book will continue, and what comes next… well, pick up your own copy from DK Books and check in here! Oh, and remember the popcorn!!

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