An ambitious project attempting to shed some light on the tragic story of Sabina Spielrein and her involvement with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung by investigating a sizeable amount of letters the two exchanged Ich Hiess Sabina Spielrein a.k.a My Name Was Sabina Spielrein (2002) feels like a documentary feature. The film, a massive European co-production (Germany, Sweden, France, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland), also focuses on the history of psychoanalysis by highlighting selected events from the medical careers of Freud and Jung.
The bigger part of this film indeed consists of narrated "letters" which Jung and Freud exchanged. The themes of their correspondence range from abnormal child behavior to the progress Sabina was showing under Jung's supervision (Sabina Spierlein was Carl Jung's first patient). After her illness was cured Sabina became one of Jung's closest friends and consequently joined the ranks of those who were involved with her treatment.
It is difficult to tell what sort of reactions Elizabeth Marton's film is likely to spur amongst those who are not particularly interested or are familiar with the work of Freud and Jung. The heavy emphasis My Name Was Sabina Spierlein places on specific events from the lives of the two doctors certainly suggests that this was a production that was meant to appeal to a specific contingent of viewers. And without a doubt the abundance of medical information the film offers in my opinion is likely to be embraced with greater enthusiasm by those who already have a previous knowledge about psychoanalysis and its founding fathers.
Aside from the curious medical information the film offers what I found particularly interesting is the manner in which the director has managed to describe the love relationship between Sabina Spierlein and Carl Jung while simultaneously following the evolution of psychoanalysis. In fact, if one sees beyond the dry letters which most of the story is built upon what one would uncover is an enormously emotional tale of romance between two people with profoundly different lives.
The mostly conservative construction of My Name Was Sabina Spierlein (Elizabeth Marton does seem to be in favor of the "documentary look") however somewhat prevents this film from being both factual and entertaining at the same time. Particularly in the latter stages of the film I noticed that the minute the story became more casual Elizabeth Marton rushed to counter it with yet another prolonged letter-reading. I do not necessarily find this to be the one aspect from the manner in which the film was presented that diminished its appeal yet I am convinced that a slightly more flexible approach would have provided quite a different result.
In 2003 the film won the FIPRESCI Award (Elizabeth Marton) at the Sochi International Film Festival, Russia.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 but not enhanced for widescreen TV's the treatment this film has received is rather questionable. A grainy, suggesting analog-master, picture quality with plenty of dots and specs throughout places this DVD at the "average to disappointing" mark. Furthermore the color gradation is also quite unconvincing and I feel that the true look of this production must have been quite different.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with a DD 2.0 track in German (and bits of English) and forced English subtitles the audio treatment is not far off the video treatment discussed above: quite disappointing. Even if we forget the fact that the English subtitles are fixed this mostly dialog driven feature (which in my opinion does not require a 5.1 mix) still sounds quite dull-uneven dialog being the main issue here.
Absolutely nothing, not even a trailer.
I quite enjoyed this film to be honest…but the DVD presentation is of typical Facets-esque quality. Quite sad indeed as I enjoy what the company puts on the market a great deal yet they never fail to surprise me providing a mediocre after mediocre transfer. If they could only step up the quality a bit and evolve into a decent distributor the results (financial ones as well) will be quite different!