A curious new German series about Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud – Freud – is brought to you by Netflix under the banner of a historical psychological thriller. For the most part, this is true. Harnessing blood-curdling periodic elements that resemble Ripper Street and The Alienist, the series begins grounded and easily consumable as we get to know the young, bearded Sigmund (Robert Finster) in late 1800s Vienna. However, it soon becomes acutely obvious that this series has little to no biographical accuracy once we begin descending into a swirling pool of murder, psychoanalysis, mediumship and seemingly endless consumption of and fixation with cocaine.
The lack of historical exactness is a shame, as the real studies and persona of Freud make for fascinating reading. The doctor, though, was indeed a frequent user and advocate of cocaine, writing and publishing a journal titled Über Coca (On Cocaine). He suffered terribly at the hands of addiction before finally seeing the light. Freud, however, insists on fusing his addiction with the paranormal, in order to solve crimes. When the body of a young woman lands on Freud’s table, he is ill-prepared for the matter, but somehow his theories, when paired with the abilities of Fleur Salomé (Ella Rumpf), mean he becomes the most useful tool in the crime-fighting box. Something suggests that a little more truthfulness would come across as less far-fetched, and ultimately would not raise the question: why use Freud if the reflection does not even slightly mirror reality?
That said, aesthetically the series is fantastic. The sets, costumes, makeup and cinematography transport you to an older era, a time when empires were at war with each other and figures such as Freud were delving deeper and deeper into the unknowns of human science. With each passing episode, cinematographer Markus Nestroy is given a playground in which to operate, building a visualisation of the natural world and the subconscious, something that he executes superbly. Eight episodes easily fly by, given the current crisis we are all living through at the moment. The series’s tensions and drama consistently escalate as the heroes reach their final crescendo, each seemingly better than the last, with subplots dancing throughout.
If a period horror/psychothriller is your thing, then Freud may well be your cup of tea, but it might also only appeal to a very select audience. One other thing: with the series being a Netflix original, be wary of how you view the programme. Pre-settings will present you with a version dubbed in English, but for an authentic experience and the least offensive to the cast, watch it in German with English subtitles. There is nothing more frustrating and detrimental to a film or TV series than a high-quality production, such as this, being dubbed by English actors in a studio booth.
Freud is released on Netflix on 23rd March 2020.
Watch the trailer for Freud here: