Freud series review: An unsuccessful attempt to find a Holmes in Sigmund Freud
The new Netflix Original Freud falls short of turning out to be an intriguing investigative thriller
It seems like an inspired idea to turn the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, into the Sherlock Holmes of Vienna. While Sherlock has his science of deduction to his aid, Marvin Kren, the creator of this peculiar Austrian Netflix Original, makes hypnosis to be Freud's weapon while solving crimes. Naturally, this show is fiction that touches upon some original concepts of the iconic neurologist.
In this show, Sigmund Freud (Robert Finster) is shown to be an underdog rebel in the field of neurology, who is often humiliated and despised by his professor Theodor Meynert (Rainer Bock) and colleague Leopold von Schönfeld (Lukas Thomas Watzl). Freud's idea of curing hysteria using hypnosis is censured as pseudoscience by his professor. His personal life is also in shambles, as his father judges him to be a disappointment. On top of all this, his chances of getting married to his fiance Maratha turn bleak, owing to his financial failings. Life takes a turn when Freud meets Fleur Salome, who seems to hold the power of hypnosis.
Director: Marvin Kren
Cast: Robert Finster, Ella Rumpf, Gerog Friedrich
Parallelly, inspector Alfred Kiss (Georg Friedrich) and constable Franz Poschacher (Christoph F. Krutzler) are investigating the brutal murder of a young woman. They cross paths with Freud during the investigation and as the number of murders increases, the trio realises there is something sinister happening in Vienna.
Marvin Kren and the writers - Benjamin Hessler and Stefan Brunner - have taken many creative liberties, while not disassociating from the time and politics of 1880s Vienna. For example, the discrimination Freud faces for being a jew is at times stressed, and the past conflict between Austria and Hungry is also exploited for the sake of the story. Also, the relationships between Freud and other characters are to an extent influenced by the life of Sigmund Freud. Many real aspects of Sigmund Freud like his association with cocaine and his disagreement with Meynert are also dramatised in the show.
Yet, the need to incorporate this famous figure into such a story seems unjustified and unwarranted. Replace Freud with any other fictitious character, and the series would still hold water. The other issue is this series' insistence on wanting to be enigmatic. When all these forced gothic layers are peeled off, what is left of Freud is yet another story about an assassination plot and an underdog hero saving the day.
Of course, there are some great moments like when Freud uses hypnotism for the first time to cure Kiss's problem, and the cathartic experiences of the characters towards the end of the series. The haunting visuals and the production design are also of great help to create the gothic mood. With the eerie background score, the show does create disturbing moments. But these good chunks are sparse and are outnumbered by the mundane portions and the predictable twists. There just is not enough to keep you excited about a second season.