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Wilhelm Reich (1897 - 1957)

Related: Freudo-Marxism - Dusan Makavejev - orgasm - sexual revolution

Films: Mysteries of the Organism (1971) - Sweet Movie (1974)

Wilhelm Reich, photo unidentified


Wilhelm Reich (March 24, 1897-November 3, 1957) was an Austrian psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and author, who was trained in Vienna by Sigmund Freud.

In the 1930s, Reich claimed to have discovered a physical energy, which he called "orgone," and which he said was contained in the atmosphere and in all living matter. He developed instruments - orgone accumulators - to detect and harness the energy, which he said could be used to treat illnesses like cancer. His views were not accepted by the mainstream scientific community.

When his Mass Psychology of Fascism, published in 1933, was banned by the Nazis, Reich realized he was in danger; he moved to the United States in 1939, where he continued his orgone research. In 1947, following a series of articles about orgone in the New Republic and Harpers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began an investigation into Reich's claims about orgone therapy, and won an injunction against its promotion as a medical treatment. Charged with contempt of court for violating the injunction, Reich conducted his own defense, which involved sending the judge all his books to read. He was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.

In August 1956, several tons of Reich's publications were burned by the FDA. Reich died of heart failure in jail just over a year later, one day before he was due to apply for parole. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Reich [May 2005]

He is known for three things

--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Reich [Sept 2004]

The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933) - Wilhelm Reich

His 1933 publication of The Mass Psychology of Fascism categorised the fascists as sexually-repressed neurotics. The book was banned by the Nazis when they came to power: Reich realised that he was in an extremely dangerous situation, and he hurriedly left Germany. He spent a couple of years in Norway, before his eventual arrival in the USA in 1939. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Reich#Reich.27s_early_career [Nov 2004]

Orgasm [...]

An orgasm, also known as a climax, is a pleasurable physiological, and to no small degree a psychological, response to sexual stimulation, that can be experienced by both males and females. The orgasm is one of nature's ways of making certain that an animal will engage in sexual intercourse, thus propagating its own genes. -http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orgasm

Interview by Ray Privett for SensesOfCinema.com

As the man responsible for scenes of public sex on a boat adorned with a giant head of Karl Marx in Sweet Movie (1975) and of a Soviet soldier abandoned in Germany attempting to clean bird shit off the head of a giant statue of Lenin slated for dismantling in Gorilla Bathes At Noon (1993), Dusan Makavejev has helped the world survive the Cold War and its aftermath with his playful and subversive filmmaking. This filmmaking has also undoubtedly helped Makavejev himself deal with the complications and vicissitudes of a nomadic life which he has followed from his early days in Yugoslavia during World War II, through his forced exile in the 70s, to today, where he lives in France but cautiously ventures occasionally to post-Communist, post-Milosevic Serbia.

Makavejev answers his phone with a gruff "hello," entertains visiting film critics with long nights of drinking and story-telling, surfs the web, and continues to plan adventurous multi-media projects. He remains the consummate satirist, always openly examining how the structures of power in the world around him operate, and exposing how funny they are.

I spoke with Makavejev in the fall of 2000, while preparing material for a video re-release of six films he directed through the company I work with, Facets Multimedia in the United States. Our conversation focused on the six films I was working with, but as one might expect when speaking with the writer and director of WR (1971), which juxtaposes the love life of a Soviet figure-skating champion with an exploration of the life and work of radical psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, our conversation happily segued into numerous related and unrelated topics. -- Ray Privett, http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/00/11/makavejev.html [Sept 2004]


  1. The Function of the Orgasm: Sex-Economic Problems of Biological Energy (Discovery of the Orgone, Vol 1) - Wilhelm Reich [Amazon US]
    I only read about half of this book and when I put it down I reevaluated my affection for everything written by Robert Anton Wilson who recommends it so highly.

    Basically the main point of the book is that repressed sexual energy causes violence and wars. The solution is to have more orgasms. Written in impossible prose, you feel like a fool for wading through it long enough to figure out what Reich is talking about. Any college freshman will tell you that people go to war because they don't have enough sex.

    It's almost more believable when Reich says it, but not much. Interesting footnote from the post-Freudian days of psychology and definitely better than Jung, but not much to offer in this text. I haven't read the other Reich texts, so I can't speak for everything that Reich has written. --Tim Lieder for amazon.com

The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933) Wilhelm Reich

The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933) Wilhelm Reich [Amazon.com][FR] [DE] [UK]

The German freedom movement prior to Hitler was inspired by Karl Marx's economic and social theory. Hence, an understanding of German fascism must proceed from an understanding of Marxism.

In the months following National Socialism's seizure of power in Germany, even those individuals whose revolutionary firmness and readiness to be of service had been proven again and again, expressed doubts about the correctness of Marx's basic conception of social processes. These doubts were generated by a fact that, though irrefutable, was at first incomprehensible: Fascism, the most extreme representative of political and economic reaction in both its goals and its nature, had become an international reality and in many countries had visibly and undeniably outstripped the socialist revolutionary movement. That this reality found its strongest expression in the highly industrialized countries only heightened the problem. The rise of nationalism in all parts of the world offset the failure of the workers' movement in a phase of modern history in which, as the Marxists contended, "the capitalist mode of production had become economically ripe for explosion." Added to this was the deeply ingrained remembrance of the failure of the Workers' International at the outbreak of World War I and of the crushing of the revolutionary uprisings outside of Russia between 1918 and 1923. They were doubts, in short, which were generated by grave facts if they were justified, then the basic Marxist conception was false and the workers' movement was in need of a decisive reorientation, provided one still wanted to achieve its goals. If, however, the doubts were not justified, and Marx's basic conception of sociology was correct, then not only was a thorough and extensive analysis of the reasons for the continual failure of the workers' movement called for, but also and this above all-a complete elucidation of the unprecedented mass movement of fascism was also needed. Only from this could a new revolutionary practice result. --from the first page

see also: group - mass - psychology

WR - Mysteries of the Organism (1999) Raymond Durgnat

WR - Mysteries of the Organism (1999) Raymond Durgnat [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

About the Author
Raymond Durgnat (1932-2002) was the author of many groundbreaking books about the cinema, among them Films and Feelings (1967), A Mirror for England (1970), Sexual Alienation in the Cinema (1971), The Strange Case of Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Renoir (both 1974), and A Long Hard Look at Psycho (BFI, 2002).

Book Description
Illustrated The starting point for Dusan Makavejev's controversial and explicit film is Wilhelm Reich, the Marxist psychoanalyst who preached social improvement through sexual enlightenment. Reich is a maverick intellectual, sexual pioneer, and theorist of "Orgone energy," but also of "world revolution." By juxtaposing hippie America and Cold War Yugoslavia, Dusan Makavejev stages an encounter between psychotherapy and Marxism, sexual permissiveness and socialism. For Raymond Durgnat WR is an adventure playground that the film's spectators enter and interact with. It's intellectual cinema, and a film that prophesied the horror of the conflict in what is now the former Yugoslavia.

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