THE SOUL KEEPER (Roberto Faenza, 2002)

The same year as Elisabeth Márton’s extraordinary documentary My Name Was Sabina Spielrein a fictionalized treatment of Spielrein’s life, including her relationship with psychiatrist, later colleague Carl Jung, also surfaced. This is Italian filmmaker Roberto Faenza’s mostly English-language The Soul Keeper, whose script admits to seven different writers. One of the reasons for this high number of busy computers is that Faenza’s film is really two different films in rotation that by contrivance sort-of come together across time: one is about Spielrein and Jung; the other is about two persons in the present who are researching Spielrein and Jung. I concluded my entry on Márton’s documentary thusly: “Complex, fluid, kaleidoscopic, gorgeously backlit in (mostly) black and white, Márton’s mesmerizing film reclaims from obscurity Spielrein’s accomplished existence.” I have no such kind words for Faenza’s tedious soap opera. Those who wish to learn about Spielrein, and wish to be entertained in the bargain, should consult Márton’s film. Even where it isn’t pure confection and fabrication, Faenza’s film is superfluous and worthless.
     I like the one other film by Faenza that I have seen, Pereira Declares (Sostiene Pereira, 1996), from Antonio Tabucchi’s novel, about which I concluded: “Faenza’s film is far from perfect; it is often too busy visually, and the voiceover narration—whose it is is identified only at the end—creates a distracting aural overload. But the theme is urgent, and the film delivers two heart-walloping late punches.” This film is about an aging Lisboan newspaper editor, and his relationship with a young activist whom he employs, in politically contentious 1938. In his film about Spielrein, by contrast, Faenza seems lost.
     He engages here a wealth of fascinating material, but Faenza has made a stultifying film. What a chore to keep awake!

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