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Film Facts
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Plot Summary
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General Comments
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Comments by Colin
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Comments About the Film
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Reviews of  1919
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Favorite Quotes
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Web Links
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 Freudian Web Links
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Title: 1919
Year: 1985
Cast (in alphabetical order) Sandra Berkin (Nina), Frank Finlay (Sigmund Freud - (voice)), Clare Higgins (Young Sophie), Diana Quick (Anna), .Maria Schell  (Sophie Rubin), Paul Scofield (Alexander Scherbatov), Alan Tilver (Sophie's father)
Also: Jacqueline Dankworth (Alexander's sister), Christopher Lahr (Child Alexander), Bridget Amies (Child's Nurse)
Colin's Character: Young Alexander
Directed by: Hugh Brody
Executive Producer: Peter Sainsbury
Producer: Nita Amy
Screenplay: Hugh Brody and Michael Ignatieff (Based on an idea by Michael Ignatieff)
Director of Photography: Ivan Strasburg
Editor: David Gladwell
Music: Brian Gascoigne
Running Time: 99 minutes
Rated: Not Rated
Awards: Nominated in 1985 at the Berlin International Film Festival for the Golden Berlin Bear




Inspired by a visit to the rooms where Freud worked and tracing the imagined recollections of two patients of Freud on the impact and value of their work with him, this film is at once both haunting and thought-provoking. The film centers on a current-day meeting of the two patients, coming first into contact by means of a televised documentary on Freud which included interviews with them both. The film spans not only the lifetimes of the two central characters, but the historical cataclysms through which they both lived.
The two central characters are Alexander Scherbatov, a displaced Russian aristocrat who is haunted by his incestuous feelings for his sister, and Sophie Rubin, sent to Freud by her family who were horrified by her passion for a woman and her suicide attempt.
This film offers a deep, rich, substantive, and to some, rewarding film of the struggle of two well-developed characters with their own emotional turmoil, their own unique but equally intense experiences with Dr. Freud, as well as distinct impacts and perceptions of World War I, the Russian Revolution, mid-war Austria, the German takeover of Austria, and the Holocaust.


Colin's role, with less than a total of five minutes on screen as the Young Scherbatov (Paul Scofield plays the older Scherbatov), is far from the main draw of this film. Nevertheless, his performance is mesmerizing. He is primarily shown in therapy talking to a never-seen Dr. Freud about his past--most often about his sister and his sexual obsessions.

His scenes are scattered throughout the film in   flashbacks. They show  Scherbatov's earlier life in Russia and in Vienna (mostly with historical footage and still photos of the period). There is a powerful blending of cuts from the mature Scherbatov (Scofield) to Colin as young Scherbatov on the couch in therapy with Freud. They share the same story, the same words, the same emotions, the same gestures. Find the scene where Colin is plaintively yelling, "No! No!" Then there is a cut to Scofield continuing, "No!" Or the scene where Colin is drifting with the pain of his disgusting lust, which switches from a super close-up of Colin's eyes directly to the same tortured look in Scofield's eye.

The other scene of him in his young life is early in the film where Scherbatov is recollecting how deeply he feared his father's dogs - and how his sister comes to taunt him while he is fencing with someone. He takes off his mask and reveals a tortured look of anguish and torment.

Much later in the film, there's a brief return to this same scene where young Scherbatov has the same distraught look, and then plunges toward his sister, first resting the tip of the sword on her neck, and then letting it rest on her heart. A perfect analogy to his incestuous longing for her.

Again, even though Colin's screen time is so limited, what there is, is splendid. Every scene is intense and gripping, allowing Colin to show a depth of despair and anguish. Nearly all the shots of him are closeups of his face-shown in chiseled relief against the dark shadows of Freud's consulting room. The play of light and shadow highlights the young male beauty of Colin's facial features in his middle twenties.


In an interview from January 1997, perhaps recollecting his first neurotic role in "1919" (and followed by more significant "neurotic" roles in "Apartment Zero" and "Master of the Moor") he remarked: "I'm attached to playing neurotics." -- Chicago Tribune, TEMPO Section, 1/27/97

About Paul Scofield, whose character he plays as a youth in "1919": "The first actor who really blew me away was Paul Scofield in [the movie] 'A Man for All Seasons,' he says. "I'd never seen such integrity in acting, and it struck me as a fascinating paradox because acting is artifice. It can be argued to be entirely false. I thought, how can an actor suggest such truth?" -- A&E Monthly Interview, December 1996

Coming soon: URL link to Jane's Firth articles page, for the full-length versions of articles from which quotes are taken.


The following comments are based on the Introduction and Afterward of the Screenplay for "1919."

"An absence rather than a presence"

The introduction to the Screenplay, written by both authors, Hugh Brody and Michael Ignatieff, provides useful insight behind the making of 1919. They were deeply moved by a visit to the Freud museum, located in the office and consulting rooms where Freud practiced in Vienna. The museum included detailed photographs taken weeks before Freud fled the Nazis in 1938. They wrote: "We looked at the photographs - at these crowded, silent rooms - and began to talk about a film in which Freud would be an absence rather than a presence - a voice heard over the shoulder. "

"An incitement to fiction"

They drew inspiration for the characters from a little known paper on "The Psychogenesis of Homosexuality in a Woman" (1920) and from the Wolfman, the most famous of all Freud's patients. In the former, they found "hints of a young woman's struggle, a challenge to Freud's authority." While the paper was "thin and incomplete", within it they "felt that the logic of the struggle, the real story, remained hidden. Here was a mystery, an incitement to fiction. . ." And they began "imagining the events that Freud's account leaves out," admittedly inventing new characters.

"Lives fractured by history"

They were drawn to the period soon after World War I, when Freud's savings were gone, and he didn't even have the money to heat his consulting room (thus the gloves worn by both the young Alexander and Sophie while in Freud's office). In addition, they decided to place the current action of the film 50 years later, in 1970, with Sophie returning to Vienna, resolving to confront her past. This time frame allowed the authors to explore how each character had been affected by and confronted the momentous events of Nazi occupation and the Holocaust. The theme then broadened to include: "How could these two people make sense of lives fractured by history? . . . What is to be found at the intersection of public history and private fate?"

"History need(s) to include the intimate, the almost sacredly private"

The Afterward, written by John Berger, mirrored this broad theme, noting, "'Nineteen Nineteen' speaks directly to what we know about life, composed inextricably of the most intimate movements of the heart, accident, and the remorseless movement of history. He describes how the film deals with four layers of time, including the elderly characters, their period as young adults when they saw Freud, their childhood, and then the layer of world history. Berger notes how the film "holds all these layers of time together, moving from one to another, holding them together as experience, yet never leaving the present." He adds "It is becoming more and more apparent, as our century nears its end, that the most valid testimonies to its history need to include the intimate, the almost sacredly private, and the gigantic historical."


The Cast

"1919" was Colin's fourth film, following performances in what he'd referred to as "callow youth" films - "Another Country," "Camille," and "Dutch Girls."

The most celebrated member of the cast was Paul Scofield, who played Alexander Scherbatov, the unmistakable lead role in the film. Scofield is one of only three actors in history to have won an Emmy, a Tony, and an Oscar (the later for Best Actor in "A Man for All Seasons" of 1966). Scofield also won the Golden Globe for the same film, and best supporting actor nominations for his performances in "The Quiz Show" (1994) and "The Crucible" (1996).

It was the second film for Clare Higgins, who played Young Sophie. Interestingly, her first role had been as Kitty in the 1979 TV production of "Pride and Prejudice."

Diana Quick, who played Anna (Sophie's lover), was Julia, in "Brideshead Revisited" (1982).



There are a number of thoughtful, probing, and insightful reviews of 1919. They are surprisingly positive, given the limited critical success of the film. (None specifically mentions Firth's performance.)

"Not to be missed"

Leonard Quart, writing in CINEASTE in 1987 , remarked how the film "resonates and endures in memory in a way that no other film on the psychoanalytic process that I have seen ever has." Joh Coleman, writing in the New Statesman in 1985 says "Magnificently played, so that the camera can confidently close in on the faces . . . his chamber piece is about the last resorts of two people with little in common - except the ragged march of history - and how they got there; about memory, time, appetite and happenstance; about the tangled consciousness of a woman called Sophie, and man called Alexander. Not to be missed."

"For anyone who feels and thinks"

Jerry Tallmer, writing for the New York Post in 1986, called 1919 "an immensely exciting" film. He called it "a movie for grownups. For men and women. For anyone who feels and thinks. For anyone who has tried to love. For anyone who has survived the 20th Century."

"A small polished gem"

Jan Hoffman, writing in the Village Voice, noted, " '1919' emerges as a small, polished gem about large, ragged subjects: psychoanalysis, history, passion, despair, comfort."

"Little more than a Freudian cult film"

Despite these very complimentary appraisals, one review questioned its aspirations. Leo S. Seligsohn, writing for Newsday in 1986 wrote: "For all its high aspirations, good acting, and the artistic risks it has so nobly taken, the movie comes off as little more than a Freudian cult film."

Mostly, the reviewers acknowledge how challenging the film is - that it does not offer light entertainment - and while skillful, it is not easy to view.

"Not concerned with providing solutions, rather with demonstrating that none exist"

Leonard Quart (from CINEASTE, quoted above) notes that this "is a film of an utterly different order from American films, which deal with the psychoanalytic process, like 'David and Lisa' (1962) and 'Ordinary People' (1980). Both of the latter films viewed psychoanalysis as essentially a benign, commonsensical process where wise therapists usually helped the patient get through to the core of his or her problem and affect some positive changes in his or her life. ("1919") offers no such facile bromides or solutions - just Freud's own complex perspective of psychoanalysis: 'There are no cures…only the possibility of converting hysterical misery into everyday unhappiness.'  He concludes that 'It richly evokes how speculative and uncertain the whole etiology of neurosis is, and how analysis may be no more than a place to talk to an intelligent listener - the act and process itself becoming its own justification with little possibility of change in sight.' Another reviewer, Pam Cook (Monthly Film Bulletin 12/85), echoes that the 'film is not concerned with providing solutions, rather with demonstrating that none exist.'

"Portrait of excruciating despair"

Jan Hoffman (from The Village Voice, quoted above) observes: "Despite their differences, they [the two main characters] have both been scarred by history - particularly World War II. As their mesmerizing narratives take shape, it becomes apparent that not only were they not demonstrably "saved" by psychoanalysis, but that neither her struggle nor his passivity has leavened their contemporary outlook. Now in their late sixties, both have come to the same lonely bitterness. 'Nineteen Nineteen' slowly deepens into a portrait of excruciating despair."

Closing with a hopeful observation, Hoffman notes"'Nineteen Nineteen suggests that the talking cure itself may not work, but that consolation from talking may be possible. All the more successful for the modesty of its ambition, Nineteen Nineteen has a lingering, provocative effect. It helps to talk about it."



Young Scherbatov (Firth) says: "Brothers and sisters play together. Why should it have such an effect on me?"

Dr. Freud says to him, " For you there are women who are your sister and women who are shit."

This theme is reflected in a brief but extraordinary scene where Firth's exquisitely conveys a shift from lustful sexual attraction to pained revulsion. While the depth of the scene can only be appreciated from the seeing, Firth's dialogue goes as follows:

"I meet her in the storeroom at the café after work. She washes dishes there. Big, red-faced woman. Large breasts. Strong. The smell . . . cabbage. Just my type. I want to see - I want to see - that's it - shake it, bitch. That's it."

Then with a slight veering of his eye, revealing an instantaneous physical and emotional shift, he writhes, "What a disgusting woman!"


Colin as Scherbatov repeats a story twice, at the beginning and end: Two boys playing in the mud are asked "what are you making?". They reply "a church" and are asked "Where's the priest?". "We haven't enough shit for a priest." This story evokes Colin's only smile in the film.

Pivotal ScenesUnrelated to Firth

Rrepresenting the dimension of the film about Freud and homosexuality:

Young Sophie to Freud: "I'm here because I love a woman"

Freud: "You are here because you tried to kill yourself."

"You are acting out a masculine part with Anna. It is as if she were your mother. You are acting out what life denies you. You would rather die that admit your love for your father."

Also watch for: (1) a tender love scene between Sophie and Anna, (2) a reflective moment when the elder Sophie says, "with a woman you are yourself . . .", (3) Sophie's trauma when Anna is pregnant, apparently by Sophie's father, but rejects Sophie, saying it's not her baby.

There is a scene where Sophie leaves Freud, rejecting his efforts to "cure" her, followed by a cut to young Alexander telling his joke, and then a cut to the present:

Sophie says to Scherbatov - "He said I should find a woman analyst."

Scherbatov says: "He did us no good."

Sophie replies: "He did his best."


"Freud" (1962) with Montgomery Clift, Directed by John Huston

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975) with Jack Nicholson, Directed by Milos Forman

"Annie Hall" (1977) with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, Directed by Woody Allen

"The Prince of Tides" (1991) with Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte, Directed by Barbra Streisand

In addition, several excellent books are available on this theme - e.g., "When Neitzsche Wept" by Irv Yalam and "The Story of Anna O," a memoir of a patient of Freud's.


Rating System

***** Superb/breathtaking/heartstopping/etc
**** Excellent
*** Very pleasing
** Still lovely, but . . .
* Bad hair day

Personal Ratings

**** Colin's looks
***** Colin's acting ability
*** The film in general
** Ranking in the films of Colin Firth
*** Watchability & rewind factor



1. Austria National Tourist Office site

2. Freud's Archives - includes links to Library of Congress information

The Library's exhibition "Sigmund Freud: Conflict and Culture" opens October 15, 1998.

The exhibition on Freud features vintage photographs, prints, films, manuscript letters and documents and first editions of many publications from the Library's collection of more than 80,000 Freud items donated over the past four decades by the Sigmund Freud Archive. These materials will be supplemented with loans from the Freud Museum, London; the Sigmund Freud- Museum in Vienna; and other important collections. The exhibition will explore Freud's influence throughout 20th century culture and how and why his legacy is contested.

3. Museum in Vienna, included in the film 1919, is at Berggasse 19 includes Freud's actual consulting rooms as well as the original furniture from the waiting room, nearly eighty objects of Freud's antique collection, and a few of Freud's personal belongings.

4. Site on the London Museum, with good text and photos. This site notes that the works of Freud and fellow psychoanalysts were publicly burned in 1933 and during the following years members of the predominantly Jewish psychoanalytical community in Vienna emigrated. However, Freud refused to leave; it was not until Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938 and the Freud family was subjected to Nazi harassment that he moved away from Berggasse 19, Vienna, his home of 47 years.

5. Museum in London, the centerpiece being Freud's library and study, preserved just as it was during his lifetime. It contains Freud's remarkable collection of antiquities: Egyptian; Greek; Roman and Oriental. Photo of Freud's analytic couch included.

6. Freud's paper "An Outline on Psycho-Analysis"

7. Includes images of some of Freud's antiquities collection


1919but.jpg (5160 bytes)Link to IMDB page

1919but.jpg (5160 bytes)To Sharon's snappies of 1919

1919but.jpg (5160 bytes)To Jane's Colin Firth articles site

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JayEtta - writer

Janet - editing

Murph - Design and Formatting (under JayEtta's Direction)

Anne - provided reviews

Francoise - provided script

Write me for comments and suggestions.


  This page is part of a Firthland project on the films of Colin Firth.

Snappy photos by Sharon

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