A little-known, short-lived but nonetheless intriguing jigsaw piece of post-war Germany is explored Gerd Kroske’s documentary SPK Complex. The film looks at Wolfgang Huber, a doctor who by 1970 was running a psychiatric hospital with questionable methods; he had no training in the field of psychiatry at all.

This hospital was a front for his Marxist-influenced political agenda. To combat capitalism, he formed the SPK (ocialist Patient’s Collective), who issued the statement early that ‘The system made us sick; let’s deal this sick system the death blow!’ Huber commented that mental illness was due only to the societal influences of the period; therefore, political reform was necessary. Whether he believed in this notion about the root of mental illness remains a mystery.

With no prior knowledge going into the documentary, research after the fact is almost certainly needed to understand many aspects. Perhaps this is a good thing, as it is incredibly fascinating. However, there is a lack of clarity at times that can be off-putting. This partly due to the confusing presentation at times, specifically the lack of titles to identify the importance of everyone interviewed. Such nuances seem to have been lost in translation.

Despite these setbacks, this little-known tale of the Cold War is at the very least interesting. More importantly it details how psychiatry and mental healthcare can be hijacked for other means.

Screens:
Thursday, October 18, 6 PM, Jackman Hall AGO

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