Nietzsche Dispenses Dating Advice in a Short Screwball Film, My Friend Friedrich

My Friend Friedrich opens on awk­ward, bespec­ta­cled Colum­bia stu­dent Nate hav­ing a heart to heart on the phone with his moth­er. Then, in a phi­los­o­phy class, he almost suc­ceeds in land­ing a date by lob­bing an illus­trat­ed invi­ta­tion at his love inter­est, Emma. All goes awry when a taller, more con­fi­dent, bespec­ta­cled Colum­bia stu­dent cuts him off at the knees. So far, so very New York stu­dent film, but a con­ceit arrives to dis­tin­guish this sto­ry of Ivy League dat­ing woes: the ghost of Friedrich Niet­zsche appears before Nate to guide him towards self-actu­al­iza­tion.

In what “seems to have been a senior project at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts,” accord­ing to Crit­i­cal The­o­ry (a Vimeo upload dates the film as “cir­ca 2003), My Friend Friedrich gives us the typ­i­cal under­grad­u­ate expe­ri­ence of the philosopher’s voice. Niet­zsche instructs our young friend to regard the flash­ing lights, tall build­ings, and “horse­less car­riages” of Times Square as mean­ing­less. “Nihilism cares about noth­ing” he says and urges his pupil to will him­self to pow­er. It’s not too pro­found a por­tray­al of Nietzsche—though of course it’s only played for laughs—and seems to come main­ly from a sur­face read­ing of his Will to Pow­er, an unfin­ished man­u­script pub­lished after the philosopher’s death. (His sis­ter fraud­u­lent­ly pitched a man­gled edi­tion to the Nazis as Nietzsche’s under­writ­ing of their ide­ol­o­gy, cut­ting out all of her brother’s strong remarks against anti-Semi­tism.)

One could argue, if it’s worth explain­ing the humor, that this super­fi­cial take on Niet­zsche is pre­cise­ly the point, since it’s the dif­fi­dent Nate’s slight read­ing of Will to Pow­er at the out­set that pro­duces his hal­lu­ci­na­tion-slash-vis­i­ta­tion. Niet­zsche helps Nate win an intel­lec­tu­al piss­ing con­test by quot­ing Beyond Good and Evil chap­ter and verse, then goads him into some awk­ward out­bursts and even­tu­al­ly over­stays his wel­come. The screw­ball con­clu­sion is ripped right out of Wes Ander­son.

It’s all in good fun, but if you find your­self eager for some more sub­stan­tial Niet­zsche resources, we’ve got them aplen­ty. You might begin with emi­nent Niet­zsche schol­ar and Will to Pow­er trans­la­tor Wal­ter Kaufmann’s lec­tures on Niet­zsche, Kierkegaard and Sartre. In our list of free phi­los­o­phy cours­es you’ll find Niet­zsche cours­es by Leo Strauss, Rick Rod­er­ick, and oth­ers. Alain de Bot­ton offers an intro­duc­tion on Niet­zsche as part of his Guide to Hap­pi­ness, and BBC pro­gram Human, All Too Human presents Niet­zsche’s life in a doc­u­men­tary series that also includes Sartre and Hei­deg­ger. Many works by Niet­zsche can also be found in our Free eBooks and Free Audio Books col­lec­tion.

And if it’s more Niet­zsche humor you’re after, see this failed attempt to explain the philoso­pher to a group of 5‑year-olds.

via Crit­i­cal The­o­ry

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Dai­ly Habits of High­ly Pro­duc­tive Philoso­phers: Niet­zsche, Marx & Immanuel Kant

Sartre, Hei­deg­ger, Niet­zsche: Three Philoso­phers in Three Hours

Dis­cov­er Friedrich Nietzsche’s Curi­ous Type­writer, the “Malling-Hansen Writ­ing Ball”

Wal­ter Kaufmann’s Clas­sic Lec­tures on Niet­zsche, Kierkegaard and Sartre (1960)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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