© Senator/Central

In guten Händen (Hysteria)
U.K./Germany/France/Luxembourg 2011

Opening 22 Dec 2011

Directed by: Tanya Wexler
Writing credits: Stephen Dyer, Jonah Lisa Dyer, Howard Gensler
Principal actors: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce, Felicity Jones, Rupert Everett

At the end of the 19th century a “new” illness is fashionable amongst the well to-do ladies. When suffering from sleeplessness, sadness and being irritable, the diagnosis is “Hysteria”. It is believed that the female sexual organ is malfunctioning. The old Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce) offers a cure to the London society ladies. Soon he needs a helping hand. The young, ambitious Dr. Mortimer Ganville (Hugh Dancy) had just been fired for being too modern, like washing his hands before treating a patient and “wasting” clean bandages. The idea of germs carrying disease is not yet popular. Therefore, he is glad to get this job which comes with board and lodging. In the big family home he meets pretty Emily (Felicity Jones), the youngest of Dr. Dalrymple’s daughters. She looks after the household, and her temperamental and emancipated sister Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal) looks after the poor, much to the annoyance of her wealthy father. Passionate and progressive-minded, she fights against the dismissive perception of women. Mortimer is fascinated and confused by this lively woman but is getting engaged to the prim and proper Emily.

Eventually, Mortimer looses his lucrative job with Dr. Dalrymple and is back with his scientist friend Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett), who spends his days with electrical experiments. At the time he is inventing an electrical feather duster – and by chance the vibrator is born.

The American director Tanya Wexler loosely based her tale on historical facts. She succeeds in treading a fine line between humour and more serious issues. It is also a vibrant love story placed at the time of the industrial revolution, going hand in hand with the beginnings of women’s awareness in a changing society. “This movie is about a lot of things. Mostly it’s fun,” the director said at a press conference in Toronto. “But in many ways it’s about being able to choose your own destiny, whether the doctor or patient.” It is a thoroughly enjoyable, and at times hilarious, light-hearted comedy with serious undertones. (Birgit Schrumpf)

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