By Nick Nicholson
In June, 1939, Dutch surrealist Janek Bruhl finished production of his only film, De Wreedheid van Geboorte (The Cruelty of Birth). He was 31. Bruhl’s lover, the actress Clara Leitz, played the lead role of a young woman who descends into a subconscious world of psychosexual madness and perversity, depicted in a series of nightmarishly bizarre scenes that at times bordered on the pornographic. The experience was so grueling for Leitz, physically and mentally, that upon completion of filming, her doctor dispatched her to a sanitarium in Switzerland. Three weeks later, Leitz returned home to Rotterdam but she was never the same. She’d become fragile and prone to uncontrollable bouts of weeping. In March, 1940, Bruhl made some preliminary notes for his next film, Het Ei (The Egg), but not a single frame was ever shot. As fate would have it, Janek Bruhl and Clara Leitz were both killed on May 14, 1940, during the German blitz on their beloved city. In 1947, after a private viewing of De Wreedheid van Geboorte, Spanish director Luis Buñuel is reputed to have said, “After Bruhl, there is nothing.” The last surviving print of Bruhl’s cinematic masterpiece was destroyed by fire in 1961.
© Nick Nicholson 2010, 2011. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or in part without written permission from the author.
This is the fifth part of Nick Nicholson's theme-adventurous, eight-part Travelogue. Subsequent segments will be published here in upcoming months.
Next Travelogue story: Santiago
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Throughout his life, Nick Nicholson has pursued a variety of creative vocations: music, photography, painting and, in recent years, writing. He lives in Australia.