Gustav Mahler’s music is exciting and beautiful, but also filled with angst and neuroticism. The dark spirits contribute to the works’ unique value and appeal, but were hard on the composer himself. To deal with tragedy and psychological problems, he turned to a Vienna neighbor, the granddaddy of psychoanalysis.
That Mahler was treated by Sigmund Freud is a historic fact and the subject of a new film, “Mahler on the Couch” — which opens German Gems, a festival of new films from Germany, Austria and Switzerland opening at 7 p.m. Friday at the Castro Theatre.
The film series is a successor to Berlin & Beyond, and both are headed by Ingrid Eggers.
A four-hour psychotherapy session in 1910 is just the fodder for this 2010 movie, a gripping account of Mahler’s life by father-and-son filmmakers Percy and Felix Adlon and featuring a brilliant performance by Johannes Silberschneider as Mahler.
Mesmerizing newcomer Barbara Romaner plays Mahler’s genius, unfaithful wife — she had two more husbands after Mahler.
The score, entirely derived from Mahler’s music, was recorded by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Other interesting festival films include “Celebration of Flight,” a fascinating documentary written and directed by Lara Juliette Sanders screening at 2 p.m. Sunday.
It tells the story of Daniel Rundström, a former private pilot to notable figures such as Haille Selassie and the king of Yemen, who at age 78 dreams of building his own plane on an island in the Caribbean. He and a 16-year-old local boy move heaven and earth to develop, build and ship their own aircraft for a designer air show in Florida.
“Mountain Blood,” screening at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, deals with the William-Tell story of the (real) Tyrolian revolt against Bavarian and French rule at the beginning of the 19th century.
Shot on location in spectacular South Tyrol, the film’s heroine is the wife of a man who joins the fight led by Andreas Hofer, the historical figure leading the rebellion against Napoleon’s overwhelming forces.
On Saturday, other festival films are “Keep Surfing,” “Intern for Life,” “The Architect” and “She Deserved It.”
Also on the Sunday schedule are “David Wants to Fly” and “Disenchantments.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco
When: 7 p.m. Friday through 9 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $9 to $11 for screenings, $20 opening night
Contact: (415) 695-0864, www.germangems.com