When Nietzsche Wept

When Nietzsche Wept
File:When Nietzsche Wept.jpg
Directed by Pinchas Perry
Produced by Pinchas Perry
Written by Pinchas Perry
Based on When Nietzsche Wept 
by Irvin D. Yalom
Starring Armand Assante
Ben Cross
Katheryn Winnick
Michal Yannai
Jamie Elman
Music by Sharon Farber
Cinematography Georgi Nikolov
Editing by David Jakubovic
Distributed by First Look International
Release date(s)
Running time 105 minutes
Country Bulgaria / United States
Language English

When Nietzsche Wept is an independent Bulgarian film released in 2007 and produced in the USA, starring Armand Assante, Ben Cross and Katheryn Winnick. The movie is based on the novel When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom and was directed by Pinchas Perry.


The film opens with the Russian-born novelist—who eventually became a member of Freud's 'Vienna Circle'-- Lou Andreas-Salome (Katheryn Winnick) who had an unconsummated (Platonic) 'love affair' with German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (Armand Assante), and to whom he allegedly proposed in 1882 (although whether her claims are true is very much up for debate) writing a letter to Dr Josef Breuer (Ben Cross), after hearing of his newly developed talking cure (Breuer was a friend of Sigmund Freud (Jamie Elman), who also appears in the story, and one of the influential fathers of psychoanalysis.). The two meet, and a reluctant and troubled Breuer agrees to Salome's plan; to cure the intense migraine attacks that plague Nietzsche, and at the same time, without his knowing, cure the despair that her refusal of marriage has inflicted upon him.

Salome has persuaded Franz Overbeck (Nietzsche's friend) to send him to Breuer, however, Nietzsche offers no support to Breuer, so the course of treatment must end. In a chilling parallel, an encounter with a mistreated horse causes Nietzsche to redeem his appointment with Breuer (Nietzsche finally went mad after stopping a man from whipping a horse using his own body, before breaking down in tears and descending into insanity). Nietzsche later visits a whorehouse, where he has another attack of migraine, exacerbated by the overuse of a sleeping draught. Nietzsche decides that he will, instead of pursuing treatment, leave for Basel. Meanwhile, an up-and-coming psychologist Sigmund Freud, friend of Josef and Mathilde Breuer, suggests that if Breuer was to make some confession to Nietzsche, he may stop seeing any positive sentiment shown as being a bid for power, and indulge in confessions of his own.

So, the next time they met, Breuer makes the suggestion that, while he treats Nietzsche's body, Nietzsche must "treat" Breuer of the despair that he feels after falling in love with one of his patients, Bertha Pappenheim (played by Michal Yannai), otherwise known as Anna O., a famous case which was discussed in a joint book by Breuer and Freud, later on.

The confessions lead to the two becoming open with each other, learning each other's way of life and finally the two becoming friends, but not before the film has explored a great deal of Nietzsche's philosophy and Breuer's psychoanalysis. Breuer's anguish over his supposed unhappiness is explored by means of his highly symbol-laden dreams, thus showing the importance of interpretation as a stepping stone in what would constitute Freud's approach to psychoanalytic techniques.

The film is host to a variety of famous faces of the day; Josef and Mathilde Breuer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Lou Salome, Sigmund Freud, Bertha Pappenheim, Paul Rée as well as references to Franz Overbeck, and the music of the composer, Richard Wagner.

External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • In-depth review