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Opium: Diary of a Madwoman

János Szász
Opium: Egy elmebeteg nö naplója
Hungary, Germany, USA 2007 / 109’

The Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen plays the lead role as the morphine-addicted psychiatrist Dr. Brenner. In 1913, he comes to a remote mental institution for women, where the patients are still being subjected to spectacular, medieval treatment methods. In contrast to the older doctors, Brenner is tracking down the human aspect in the midst of insanity, and he is especially taken by Gizella. She is beautiful, but a lost soul, who, with her schizophrenic and manic writings, manages to put words to what Brenner himself is trying to express. But his own demons overpower him time and time again, driving him further down the path of opium addiction and promiscuity. János Szász's deeply fascinating and beautiful film is as appealing as it is eerie - like a poem by Edgar Allan Poe.

IFF Copenhagen 2007


A rich pictorial broadsheet that celebrates suffering, the exquisite agony of pain. The trappings of a lunatic asylum in the early 20th century are laid out in all their gruesome glory, allowing the story of a doctor and his beautiful patient to exert its strange fascination. The Scandinavian leads play their roles with frightening intensity. The camera registers and precisely dissects every movement, tells a story in images of disturbing beauty.

Cottbus FF 2007

János Szász was born in Budapest in l958. He studied drama and stage direction at the Academy of Theater and Film Arts. He has also directed films and TV series. His long feature films are: Szédülés (1990), Woyzeck (1994) and Witman fiúk (1997). Szász also directed a documentary for the Shoa Foundation and Steven Spielberg: A Holocaust szemei (2000), the story of the childrens of the holocaust never was told this way before.

Selected filmography:

1990 Szédülés / Don't Disturb!

1994 Woyzeck

1997 Bracia Witman / Witman fiúk / The Witman Boys

2000 Holocaust szemei / Eyes of the Holocaust (dok. / doc.)

2007 Ópium: Egy elemebeteg nö naplója / Opium - Diary of a Madwoman