I had not heard of Klaus Kinski much before, but by the usual criss-crossing paths of the internet, I ended up watching one video of him having a tantrum in the park.
Then I got fairly obsessive in trying to find out more about him.
Finally, I put on my Fitzcarraldo, which I had paused in the middle to indulge my obsession. And thing is, I shut it down pretty fast. I could not watch it.
Background: I don’t know what is normal behaviour, but I feel things first. This means I have sometimes absolutely no idea why I feel or react in certain ways. I have to retrace my steps and analyse it afterwards to try and figure it out. It can happen that I don’t manage to explain all reactions and emotions in the end either. And I think this reaction to the Fitzcarraldo movie is one of my failures.
But I will put down some scattered thoughts on Klaus, empathy and mental health.
Klaus Kinski is not a nice person. He is quite a horrible person. I can rationally see it, but that first video of him made me feel a lot of empathy for him, and I think that has escalated since. No matter how many times my rational brain section tells me that my empathy for him is misplaced, it does not work. Watching those videos of him where people seemed to deliberately provoke him into having a tantrum so they could be amused – that was heartbreaking really. It was done like a modern day freak show, and I think he was intelligent enough to sense it. There’s just some kind of extreme vulnerability in him, like a wild animal, ever vigilant, constantly perceiving attacks against himself and choosing to attack first. His entire megalomania was just to hide his non-existent self-esteem. I think that probably inspires my irrational empathy. I feel that somewhere in that chaos and monstrosity is ….a lot deserving of sympathy. I tried to name that ‘something’, but it seems truer to abstain.
But but. I truly thought the act of molesting one’s children would override my empathy. It feels embarrassing after the tirades I’ve made against pedophiles and old people that pray on teenagers/very young adults to let one slip through the net. That is the downside of being empathy-driven rather than sympathy-driven. Empathy can be silly and amoral.
Why I shut that movie down. I think I felt he was playing himself. Why I could not handle it, I don’t know.
I do think though that it is a good thing that he was able to do these wonderful roles (which I cannot watch at this point, lol) instead of being isolated from society because of his paranoid schizophrenia.
It’s a curious paradox that in times when mental illness treatment was even worse than in our age and where people with illnesses were basically isolated from society compared to the modern attempts at inclusion, well, in those times people with some mental health problems were frequently much more included. Those with minor stuff, I mean. Those that could basically function because they had normal intellect and their quirks or delusions did not make them dysfunctional on a large scale. Now, there is too much defining of people through their illnesses and everyone with a minor divergence is already ‘out’. Upside is they get help, but I think true inclusion happens when one stops being ‘visible’, i.e. forcibly included. When people like Klaus Kinski or any highly-functioning autist are not “ill”, but just with an alternative way of interpreting the world, like artists and scientists. I feel like the world, with all its talk of diversity, is making the bounds of normality a lot narrower than they used to be because every difference is turned into a pathology requiring treatment.