Al di là del bene e del male (1977)


Dominique Sanda – Lou Salome
Erland Josephson – Friedrich Nietzsche
Robert Powell – Paul Rée
Virna Lisi – Elisabeth Nietzsche
Philippe Leroy – Peter Gast
Elisa Cegani – Franziska Nietzsche
Umberto Orsini – Bernhard Förster
Michael Degen – Carl Andreas
Amedeo Amodio – Doctor Dulcamara
Carmen Scarpitta – Malvida
Clara Algranti – Madame Thérèse


This is the second part of The German Trilogy directed by Liliana Cavani (the last one is “Berlin Affair”). In “Night Porter” she described connection between perversion and fascism. This time Cavani described life of Friedrich Nietzsche – great, German philosopher, who declared “Death of God” and wrote such famous books as “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” and “Beyond Good and Evil”. Film focused on love, bisexsual triangle between Nietzsche (Bergman’s actor Erland Josephson),his friend Paul Ree (Powell)and Lou Salome (Sanda). Like in “Night Porter” film is full of strong, violent sequences (homosexual rape, scatology etc.) but in the other hand it contains the main ideas of Nietzsche philosophy, clearly transformed into feministic discourse (woman as Superman beyond Good and Evil). Recommended for intellectuals with nerves of iron.

This is Cavani’s most influential film. No one interested in Nietzsche or Salomé can leave this film without notice! The interpretation of some of Nietzsche’s main ideas are well articulated and visually made comprehensible so that they both win in depth and become even more enticing. Cavani uses Mozart’s music in a way that makes your spine tinkle. Spiritism, Mozart and a life just petered out make together a scene that is overwhelming in meanings. Most of the philosophical points are given in visual argumentation; that makes the film a real treasure box for anyone interested in visual thinking and its art. In this film Cavani has also developed a cinematic language she nowhere else applies. She uses pictorial mementos known to most of us and plays a semiotic game that makes quite common scenes to grow ambiguous, even breathtaking. The film is really not to be recommended to anyone, since without basic knowledge in Nietzsche and Belle Epoque one can’t enjoy the story. But for those who are even cursorily familiar with the scene the film will be a revelation.

A misguided attempt to dramatize the psychological triad formed by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (Erland Josephson), his Jewish friend Paul Rees (Robert Powell), and a Russian girl named Lou Von Salome (Dominique Sanda), this overbearing drama fails mightily. Nietzsche is portrayed as a jealous sociopath who drives Rees to suicide, and director Liliana Cavani cannot resist including a drug-hallucination ballet about Good and Evil which approaches the excesses of her controversial Il Portiere di Notte in its melodramatic sexual hysteria. Cavani’s film is feverish where it should have been calculating and lurid where it should have been provocative. The result may be the first exploitation film aimed at philosophy students, and even deft supporting turns by Virna Lisi and Philippe Leroy cannot make the dialogue — drawn hamfistedly from Nietzsche’s own writings — any less ridiculous.

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