To students of psychology, Daniel Paul Schreber is a name that
  carries a certain weight. A German jurist who underwent treatment in
  asylums from the end of the 19th Century into the early 20th Century, he
  wrote a diary of his madness
Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkraken,
  published in 1903 and later issued in English as
MEMOIRS OF MY
  NERVOUS ILLNESS
. The work inspired Freud's theories on paranoia
  and homosexuality and was referred to by Jung in his study of
  schizophrenia. The book served as the basis for a play of the same
  name (by Michael Gardner) and now a feature film from director Julian
  P. Hobbs and screenwriters Fred Tietz and Alan Weiss.

          Since the diary is filled with non sequiturs, drawings, etc., it
  undoubtedly posed a problem for the adapters. While the film has
  a burnished look to it thanks to Kevin Lombard's cinematography, the
  overall results are a mixed bag.

          Obviously the chance to play a man who falls into madness
  is a prime challenge for any actor and the award-winning stage
  performer Jefferson Mays has a field day in the role of Schreber,
  who believed God was communicating with him through a secret
  language and who also thought he had to transform himself into a
  female. In a perhaps ironic twist, Mays shot the film between the
  Off-Broadway and Broadway productions of
I AM MY OWN WIFE,
  in which he portrayed a real-life German transsexual (among other
  roles). One cannot fault Mays' work as Schreber; he takes hold of
  the part and performs with a full commitment. He is matched in
  intensity by Robert Cucuzza as Schreber's nemesis and the head of
  the asylum.

          Still, there is something amiss in the way in which the filmmakers      
  have chosen to dramatize the book. Spending a lot of time with
  someone who is mentally ill can be draining in real-life and watching
  a portrait of man descending into madness can also inspire similar
  feelings. I am not sure that there would be a better way to transform
  Schreber's work into a film. I also have to wonder if it was such a good
  idea in the first place.


                                      Rating:        C -
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
Memoirs of My Nervous Illness