By GARY GOLDSTEIN
From left, Katharina Lorenz as Lou Andreas-Salomé, Alexander Scheer as Friedrich Nietzsche and Philipp Hauss as Paul Reé in the movie "Lou Andreas-Salomé: The Audacity to be Free." (Cinema Libre Studio)
Get past its cumbersome title and you'll find an absorbing, well-drawn biopic in "Lou Andreas-Salomé: The Audacity to Be Free," an intriguing look at how a Russian-born novelist, poet and avowed feminist became, reportedly, the first female psychoanalyst.
Andreas-Salomé's story begins in 1933 Nazi Germany as Lou (an affecting Nicole Heesters), 72 and in ill health, dictates her memoirs to kindly publisher Ernst Pfeiffer (Matthias Lier) as her caregiver (Katharina Schüttler) protectively hovers.
Lou's memories, shown in skillfully mounted flashbacks, recall her childhood and rebellious teen years, then give way to a unique portrait of an unconventional adult (Katharina Lorenz) who swears off love, sex and marriage to focus on her inner self.
Still, a string of notable men, captivated by her spirit, intellect and beauty, played major roles in Lou's life. They included philosophers Paul Reé (Philipp Hauss) and Friedrich Nietzsche (Alexander Scheer); poet Rainer Maria Rilke (Julius Feldmeier), who became Lou's first sexual partner; and scholar Friedrich Carl Andreas (Merab Ninidze), with whom she had a platonic marriage.
Lou would later study with Sigmund Freud (Harald Schrott) before breaking ground with her own psychotherapy practice.
Director Cordula Kablitz-Post, who scripted with Susanne Hertel, effectively presents Lou as neither heroine nor genius but as a flawed, complex, fascinating pacesetter. In this renewed era of female empowerment, "Audacity" proves surprisingly timely.