Der Vormund und Sein Dichter (1978)

Genres - Drama, History, Language & Literature  |   Sub-Genres - Biography  |   Run Time - 87 min.  |   Countries - Germany, West Germany  |  
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This biographical documentary covers the last 23 years in the life of Robert Walser (Rolf Illig), the pre-WW II Swiss writer who easily rivalled the better-known Hermann Hesse. The 23 years in question were spent at Herisau, a clinic for the mentally disturbed in central Switzerland. It had always been assumed, logically enough, that Walser was in the clinic to be treated for mental illness, reputed to be schizophrenia according to published reports. But director and writer Percy Adlon researched the records of the clinic itself, filmed there to illustrate the environment around Walser during those years - and came up with doubts about that diagnosis. His efforts indicate that many of the myths about Walser should be laid to rest, and that it is possible the man was not at all schizophrenic. In 1936, three years after he was admitted to Herisau, Walser's publisher and eventual legal guardian, Carl Seelig (Horst Raspe), started visiting him two and three times a year until Walser's death in 1956. Questions are raised as to Seelig's motivation for those multiple visits, usually spent in long and energetic walks in the woods and fields. This documentary is divided into a series of chronological segments that take the viewer through the years of Walser's confinement, and into the personality of this inspired poet and writer.