Synopsis by Mark Deming
Daniel Paul Schreber was a German attorney who became a judge and ultimately rose to one of the highest courts in the land near the end of the 19th Century. However, Schreber suffered from a certain degree of emotional instability, in part due to abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of his father, and as Schreber enjoyed greater professional success, he began to buckle under the pressure. Schreber began insisting that he was being guided by coded messages delivered to him by God, and that he was transforming from a man into a woman; the judge was confined to a mental hospital, where he wrote an eccentric but celebrated autobiography, Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, published in 1903. Filmmaker Simon Pummell presents an idiosyncratic exploration of Schreber's celebrated case and the book that it inspired in the film Shock Head Soul. Using suitably bizarre imagery to give life to Schreber's hallucinatory delusions (with Hugo Kooschijn playing the judge), the film also includes interviews with a variety of doctors and researchers in the mental health field (all dressed in turn of the century garb for the occasion) as they talk about Schreber's case and the impact of his memoir. Shock Head Soul was an official selection at the 2011 London BFI Film Festival.
institution, lawyer, psychiatrist, psychiatry