Klaus Kinski: Psychological Profile

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Klaus Kinski Klaus Kinski, originally born Nikolaus Gunther Nakszynski, was a famous German actor, whom was active from 1948 to 1989. He was best known for his eccentric, fanatical behavior and creative partnership with renowned German director, Werner Herzog, with whom he collaborated with on multiple films. Kinski was born on October 18, 1926 in Zoppot, Free City of Danzig (now Sopot, Poland), and died of a massive heart attack on November 23, 1991 in Langunitas, California. Early Life Growing up, Kinski lived a life of poverty as the youngest of four children, and was forced to steal in order to feed himself and his family.

He was in constant trouble with the law, which caused him to develop a lack of understanding and disrespect for authority. Living in poverty also festered a troubled familial structure and background. As a young boy, Kinski’s mother constantly threw screaming fits due to being unable to deal with the hardships of her family’s abysmal living conditions, many times to the point where she would literally collapse. At one point, after his family was evicted from an apartment due to his mother’s sewing machine causing too much noise, Kinski’s mother took an overdose of sleeping pills.

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Fortunately, she survived the ordeal, but only after having her stomach pumped out. Shortly thereafter, when Kinski was still only a child, his father abandoned their family, leaving him with his mother, brother, and two sisters. In his autobiography, Kinski describes developing a high sex-drive at a very young age. He chronicles having his first sexual experience at only seven years old, performing cunnilingus on a fellow female student at his school. A few years later he began to experiment sexually with his older sister, Inge, as they would sneak into each other’s bedrooms in the middle of the night.

During his teenage years, in the midst of bombing raids on their city, Kinski also had brief sexual relations with his mother, before being conscripted into the Polish military at sixteen years old. Early Life Diagnosis I think it is safe to say that Klaus Kinski did not have a well-developed childhood. He had suffered various traumas before even the age of ten, including those associated with his family’s poverty, his mother’s anxiety issues and suicide attempt, his father’s abandonment, and much more which I did not specifically delve into.

He seems to deal with the excessive stressors of his life through his abnormally high libido, by engaging in sexual acts at a very young age, and then having inter-familial sexual relations later on. I believe Kinski’s sexual relation with his mother was particularly detrimental, as it seems to blur the line in his mind between motherly and romantic love, as becomes evident later on in his life. During adolescence, Klaus also develops problems with authority and authoritative figures, which will become a reoccurring theme throughout his life. While there seem to be broad range of diagnoses that could be given to Mr.

Kinski, I believe at this stage in his life he was suffering from a moderate case of Childhood Conduct Disorder, based on his behaviors in response to the traumas he was experiencing. I would also go on to say that there seems to be enough symptoms evident to make a diagnosis of Separation Anxiety Disorder a possibility as well. Themes of separation seem to be a reoccurring theme in Kinski’s childhood, from his mother’s suicide attempt, to his father’s abandonment, to being separated from his mother and family upon his conscription into the Polish army. Wartime

At the opening of World War II, during the German invasion of Poland, Kinski was drafted into the Polish army against his will. Shortly after, he was captured by the German army and forced to serve under the Third Reich. During his short term in the German military, Kinski spent his time waving down American fighter planes, begging them to shoot him. After losing a close friend, Klaus went AWOL, and spent days feeding on rotten apples until being captured by the English army. At the end of the war, Kinski was released from his POW camp and immediately went back home to Poland in search of his family.

He was distraught to find that most of them has passed away since he had left, the most distressing of which was his mother, with whom Kinski was very close. He spent the next few years performing with a traveling drama troupe, channeling his troubled and tortuous history into emotionally intense and fervid performances on stage. However his lack of comprehension and respect for authority caused friction with those he worked with, and Kinski often found himself unemployed and homeless. Wartime Diagnosis

Once again, numerous traumas suffered by Kinski are clearly evident here. The separation from his mother, being captured and forced to serve under the German army, his suicidal behavior, losing a close friend, and then being captured as a POW; I feel all these things put together make a diagnosis of Major Depression fairly obvious. In addition to probably suffering from PTSD upon his return home after the war, learning of his family’s passing, his mother in particular, must of only amplified his depression immensely.

I viewed Kinski joining the theatre troupe as an attempt to find an outlet for his emotional & psychological torment, using the theatre to vicariously release himself through the characters in which he played. However, his lack of understanding of authority comes forward once again, in verbal & physical disputes with those he works with. At this point his Childhood Conduct Disorder seems to be transitioning into Anti-Social Personality Disorder, or possibly Cyclothymic Disorder; a chronic mood disorder characterized by numerous depressive & hypomanic symptoms.

A Trip to the Clinic In 1948, Kinski landed his first film role with a bit part in the German film Morituri (1948). The 1950’s saw Kinski reciting poetry in clubs, performing Dostojevsky on stage, and eventually going from bit parts to gaining supporting roles in films. Using his raw, unrestrained emotions from his own life experience, Kinski began to work at perfecting his craft and becoming a recognized name. Despite the beginnings of what seemed to be a successful career in film, Kinski continued to have a troubled personal life.

According to records released in 2008 by The Karl Bonhoeffer Nerve Clinic in Berlin, Kinski was admitted to the clinic in 1950, and given a preliminary diagnosis of schizophrenia. Claiming to be in love with a doctor twenty-four years his elder, Kinski was brought into the clinic by police after he showed up to the doctor’s apartment and tried to strangle her in a fit of rage. The doctor had been providing financial support for Kinski, but was engaged to another man at the time and explained that she only had motherly feelings toward the actor.

According to Kinski’s account given in the hospital, he had been hiding himself in the doctor’s apartment and sleeping on her balcony, after being repeatedly denied visits. Kinski then made two suicide attempts, the first with morphine tablets, the second a few days later with sleeping pills. After surviving both attempts, Kinski went to the doctor’s apartment, tore apart her kitchen while calling her a “whore”, and then attempted to strangle her before being picked up by police. One doctor treating Kinski had the following to say in his file: “His speech is violent.

In this, his self-centred and incorrigible personality is evident as one that can’t blend in civil circumstances. He remains consistent to his egocentric world view and declares all others prejudiced [… ] The patient hasn’t had a job in one year, but still speaks confidently of the new film in which he will star. ” Due to his wishes, Kinski was released from the clinic three days later. During this time he was only given insulin treatments, which was standard at the time to sedate schizophrenic or manic-depressive patients by reducing their blood sugar. A Trip to the Clinic Diagnosis

Many new symptoms seem to arise here, specifically those of delusions, however many other symptoms can be traced back to earlier traumas (having romantic feelings for a much older woman, who reciprocates only motherly feelings in return). While I’m not sure if I completely agree with the clinic’s preliminary diagnosis of schizophrenia, many of the symptoms are present to support this. These include delusions (claiming to be in love, speaking confidently of his next starring role when no such thing exists), social dysfunction, and overall psychopathic and disorganized behavior.

However many symptoms seem to exist outside of schizophrenia, at least according to what I have read in the DSM-IV, such as multiple suicide attempts, disregard for the safety of others, and obsessive behavior (stalking the doctor in her apartment and sleeping on her balcony). While this event seems to be a single mood episode, I am not exactly sure what it would be diagnosed as, however I still feel that there is an underlying case of Cyclothymic Disorder or Anti-Social Personality Disorder present here. Adult Life to Death Come the sixties, Kinski’s life began to take off in all directions, good and bad.

Kinski made a name for himself in successful films such Dr. Zhivago (1965) and For a Few Dollars More (1965), but the majority of his films were complete flops. He openly admitted doing them just for the money; “I am a whore” he said, “I’m doing this crap for money, for nothing else. ” Kinski did over 60 films alone between 1960 and 1970. Kinski’s personal life also seemed to simultaneously make changes for the best and the worse as well. After his first three-year marriage to Gislinde Kuhbeck in the fifties, Kinski married Brigitte Ruth Tocki in 1960 and they had a daughter, Nastassja.

However, with his high-sex drive still in effect, his affairs with other women were constant, non-stop, and in excess. Kinski and Tocki divorced in 1971, with Kinski leaving Nastassja with her mother. In the seventies, things seemed to continue as usual for Kinski. He impulsively spent outrageous amounts of money, forcing himself to continue taking on horrible films to support his extravagance. However, in 1972 Kinski collaborated with German director Werner Herzog on Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), which turned out to be one of the high points of Kinski’s career.

During production, shooting days consisted of violent temper-tantrums from Kinski, as well as continuous threats from both Herzog and Kinski to kill each other. At one point Kinski’s behavior got so out of control, he began repeatedly firing a Winchester rifle into an occupied tent, taking off the tip of an extra’s finger. Herzog confiscated the weapon immediately after. Despite all this, Aguirre officially made Kinski a recognizable name, and spawned a stormy, intense fifteen-year long creative partnership between Herzog and himself. Kinski concluded the decade with two ore films with Herzog, Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night (1979) and Woyzeck (1979). The turbulent relationship between Kinski & Herzog continued throughout the eighties, and culminated with Kinski attacking Herzog and on the set of Cobra Verde (1988), and walking off, leaving Herzog with an unfinished film. Kinski spent his remaining years in Lagunitas, California, chronicling his chaotic life in his autobiography. At one point, he stated the following about Herzog: “I absolutely despise this murderer Herzog […] Huge red ants should piss into his lying eyes, gobble up his balls, penetrate his asshole, and eat his guts! After finishing his autobiography, Kinski passed away in Laguintas in 1991 of a massive heart-attack. Of all his three children from his three marriages, only his son Nikolai attended his funeral, where Kinski’s ashes were strewn into the Pacific Ocean. Adult Life to Death / Final Diagnosis From the 1960’s on, I would have to say that a diagnosis of Anti-Social Personality Disorder seems almost definite. Within a three-decade period, Kinski’s behavior seems to hit almost every bullet point for the DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria for Anti-Social Personality Disorder.

These include a failure to conform to social norms, lack of respect for authority, impulsive behavior in the areas of spending money and sex, excessive irritability as indicated by repeated physical fights, reckless disregard for the safety of self or others, consistent irresponsibility, and lack of remorse after having hurt or mistreated others. I also briefly considered a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder as well. However, while I found that Kinski did fit many of the symptoms for BPD, the majority of his behavior fell under Anti-Social.

In addition, I also strayed away from the diagnosis of BPD due to the fact that is predominantly females who are diagnosed with it, with male cases being extremely rare. Works Cited Kinski, Klaus. Kinski Uncut. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc. , 1996 McDonagh, Maitland. “Behind Blue Eyes: The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Klaus Kinski. ” Film Comment 43 (2007): 48-53. “Asylum records confirm Klaus Kinski’s madness. ” The Local – Germany’s news in English. Ed. Marc Young. 22 July 2008. The Local. 29 Apr. 2009 .

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Klaus Kinski: Psychological Profile. (2018, Feb 05). Retrieved from


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