My Name Was Sabina Spielrein

  • 2002
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Docudrama

Combining dramatic re-creations with readings from long-forgotten letters and journal entries, Elisabeth Marton's enlightening depiction of the life and tragic death of Sabina Spielrein has all the markings of a historical potboiler: adultery, madness, erotic obsession, infidelity, jealousy and, above all, psychoanalysis. When the diaries and letters of...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Combining dramatic re-creations with readings from long-forgotten letters and journal entries, Elisabeth Marton's enlightening depiction of the life and tragic death of Sabina Spielrein has all the markings of a historical potboiler: adultery, madness, erotic obsession, infidelity, jealousy and, above all, psychoanalysis. When the diaries and letters of Sabina Spielrein were uncovered in a Geneva cellar in 1977, a heretofore neglected chapter in the development of psychoanalysis was also unearthed: Not only did the journals contain correspondence between the two giants in the nascent field — Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung — it revealed the extent to which Spielrein herself could claim credit for their discoveries. Born to a prominent Russian Jewish family in the late 19th century, the gifted Spielrein (Eva Osterberg) first comes into contact with Jung (Lasse Almeback) in 1904 when, at the age of 18, she is admitted to Zurich's Burgholzli Clinic with a host of nervous symptoms, including psychosomatic foot pain and a curious inability to witness the humiliation of others. Noting that Spielrein admittedly loves her businessman father with "a pain" and once became sexually aroused while watching him beat one of her three brothers, the 29-year-old Jung diagnoses Spielrein with that catchall female malady: hysteria. Rooting her current troubles in repressed childhood sexuality, Jung uses word association and dream analysis to relieve Spielrein's symptoms and eventually control her disruptive behavior, but not before he himself becomes the object of her powerful sexual desires. Spielrein is released after 10 months of treatment, but instead of obeying her parents and dutifully returning to Russia, she remains in Zurich and earns a medical degree of her own with one of the first studies of schizophrenia. By this time, however, the very married Jung had allowed himself to cross that sacred line between analyst and analysand: The two had become lovers. While Jung's letters to his mentor in Vienna would enable Freud to further refine his notions of condensation and countertransference, Spielrein would begin spinning fantastic notions about her union with Jung that would find expression in the symbol of an imaginary baby Spielrein named "Siegfried" after the Wagner hero with whom she'd become obsessed. She would also begin formulating her own theories about creation and the destructive impulse that would soon be pillaged by Jung himself. Told mostly through haunting, often chilling visual fragments, this handsomely mounted and unusually gripping account amounts to an important exercise in biography: It faithfully restores Spielrein to her rightful place as a crucial contributor to the fields of child psychology and psychoanalysis — that dangerously uncertain science of the unconscious that helped to cure her own madness even as Jung's method came close to destroying her mind.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Combining dramatic re-creations with readings from long-forgotten letters and journal entries, Elisabeth Marton's enlightening depiction of the life and tragic death of Sabina Spielrein has all the markings of a historical potboiler: adultery, madness, ero… (more)

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