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.
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. 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.
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...
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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