How I missed out on a Mahler orgy

How I missed out on a Mahler orgy


norman lebrecht

June 24, 2010

I was just back from a research trip to Vienna when the phone rang and a friend offered me a part in a major feature film about Gustav Mahler. If it had been the lead role with a credit above the title, I might have given it more than a minute’s thought, but the best I was told I could hope for was a non-speaking part in the scrummage at a high-society orgy. In short, I could have been a Hollywood stud.

The film was Bruce Beresford’s Bride of the Wind and it sank into video oblivion without proper cinema release, weighted by the silliness of its paltry fictions.

It came to mind this morning when someone directed my eye to a Los Angeles Film Festival premiere of Mahler on the Couch, Felix and Percy Adlon’s fancification of the composer’s encounter with Sigmund Freud. You can tell that it’s fiction because Mahler was never on the couch. He met Freud in a small Dutch town in August 1910 and they set off on a four-hour walking cure. The rest can be read in Why Mahler?, newly obtainable on amazon

The first critical grab on Mahler on the Couch suggests that it is afflicted by the same silliness as Beresford’s wretched effort. I don’t expect to watch Johannes Silberschneider, Barbara Romaner, Karl Markovics struggle through 101 minutes, and I don’t object on the whole to the fictionalisation of historical incidents, so long as they enlighten us in some way about the human condition.  The trouble with most such biofilms is that they are riddled with cliches. I hoped for better from the Adlons, but I fear the worst.

Let me know if you’ve seen it.

You can post reviews either here, or on the Why Mahler? facebook page.



  • Dennis says:

    “Why Mahler?” is already available in UK? I’m jelaous! has listed as not being released until October in the US! Hmmm…big dilemma – pay nearly double to buy the UK edition at, or wait over 3 more months for the US edition? 🙁
    NL replies: Tough call, Dennis. I can’t guide you – except to say the UK and US editions are identical. And there is a small window of opportunity in Canada.
    If you happen to be in Ottawa July 5-7 I will be signing a limited number of copies after my lectures at the Music and Beyond Festival.