Austrian/German Netflix Show “Freud” Combines Mythology and Psychoanalysis
Explore your ego, superego and id in this captivating series
“Freud” provides a sense of déjà vu to viewers who enjoy genre programs. It is reminiscent of “The X-Files” for religious mythologies and distrust of governments. And it puts itself into historical context as “Penny Dreadful” had done. But “Freud” may be fresh to English-speaking audiences as we have not had a plethora of genre shows set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
History of Borders
It seems unfathomable in today’s nationalistic climate, but Europe has a long history of moving borders. Within these changes, people have desperately wanted to keep their cultural identities.
“Freud” is set in 1886 Vienna. The Austro-Hungarian Empire rules, but Vienna has Hungarian nobles trying to destroy the empire so that Hungary may be free.
Sophia von Szápáry, played by Anja Kling, and Viktor von Szápáry, played by Philipp Hochmair, are Hungarian enemies to the crown. But they act as if they simply want “peace” for everyone. Their weapon of choice is Fleur Salomé, played by the captivating Ella Rumpf.
Fleur has a second identity, Táltos, which is brought out by deep hypnosis mastered by Sophia. Táltos is a figure from Hungarian mythology which has supernatural powers akin to a shaman.
The plan by Sophia and Viktor is to use Táltos to entrance members of the elite. These entranced privileged will fulfill their darkest fantasies, ultimately killing others. The goal is to reach Crown Prince Rudolf, played creepily by Stefan Konarske, and have him kill his father, Franz Joseph I — the Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary.
This plan in “Freud” certainly is fantastical. But in real life, Crown Prince Rudolf killed himself in 1889. He participated in an apparent suicide pact with his mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera. The ordeal had a mysteriousness to it and it was handled quickly in 1889. However, there have been updates to the case, including the theory that the Baroness was pregnant at the time.
The possibility of Crown Prince Rudolf fathering an illegitimate heir to the throne is alluded to in “Freud.” Fleur’s menstrual cycle is focused on in the program. However, without knowing the history of Crown Prince Rudolf, one may only find symbolism within the menstrual cycle itself.
Freud, played with passion by Robert Finster, is a young professional, a Jew, and has a long-distanced relationship. And he truly loves cocaine.
He is thrown into a new circle of acquaintances by chance. Police bring a dying woman to his doorstep — stabbed by an entranced man. His friend then takes him to a séance hosted by Sophia and Viktor. This is where he also meets Fleur.
Freud tries to prove himself to fellow doctors by exploring new ground in psychoanalysis. This not only brings ire from professionals, but family as well.
Stubborn, inquisitive and high as a kite, Freud continues to provoke others and form relationships with people who become allies. With these relationships, he tests his research and forms his theories.
Id, Ego, and Super-ego
It is easy to think that “Freud” is about the man, his great mind that saved an Empire, his cigars and cocaine.
And it is easy to make Freud the metaphor for id, ego and super-ego. But Fleur is the more powerful storytelling metaphor.
The id is primitive, instinctive, impulsive, and unconscious. It responds directly and immediately to basic urges, needs, and desires. In “Freud,” Táltos is id.
Superego controls the id’s impulses, especially sex and aggression. It can be punished (in “Freud,” this is Sophia), or rewarded through the ideal self (revealed to Fleur by Freud).
Ego balances the id and super-ego. It controls them and uses them as tools. In “Freud,” this is Fleur at the end of Season 1. She has mastered control over Táltos, and she no longer needs — nor wants — the punishment and reward from Sophia and Freud.