Thirty minutes of television about a sofa: and it’s a repeat, too.
Masterpieces of Vienna is an arts documentary series of the old school. Don’t expect expensive looking camerawork, CGI reconstructions or Andrew Graham-Dixon buzzing around in a mini; you’ll be getting some nice solid rostrum work, talking heads, a smattering of archive footage and a good dose of learning really cool stuff. Each episode takes one object – a sofa, for instance – then explores it in the context of fin-de-siècle Vienna and quietly, almost modestly, carries on to relate that setting to… pfff, pretty much the whole of modern culture, really.
Admittedly, when the sofa in question is Freud’s examining couch, there’s no shortage of upholstery related material with which to stuff your thirty minutes. You’ll get a history of the foundations of psychoanalysis, thumbnail sketches of (oh, and by) Freuds’ early cases, biography, history, politics, sex, death, nazis, and then a little meditation on the significance of the role of the couch in modern therapy, too.
The stand out moment is the settee-undressing: the beautiful qashqai rug is removed to show the stained, battered hulk of furniture underneath. It sounds like a laboured metaphor for the patients’ experience on the couch but the weird, pathetic fleshiness of the couch somehow connects the theory back to the stories of people desperately looking for a talking cure.