Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Thinking Man’s Video Nasty?

Another great guest piece, this time written by the mysterious Mr A. Fan. 

It is only fitting at a screening of Michael Haneke’s Benny’s Video (1992), to mutter the title of another psychological Austrian cinematic gem, Angst (1983).

In 1983, Angst was distributed theatrically by Cine – International, totally uncut and only in its native country of Austria. Written and directed by Gerald Kargl and starring Das Boot (1981) actor Erwin Leder, the film forces the viewer on a journey alongside a convicted killer, who upon release from a ten year stretch, immediately wishes to indulge in more sadistic and unprovoked violence towards the local community, with one intention, to kill as many people as he can.

You are presented with a cold, detached and alienating character that is only driven by the lust to kill. This un-named character is not portrayed as an unstoppable Hollywood killing machine, as in the form of Michael Myers, nor is he depicted as an intelligent and charismatic cannibal like Hannibal Lecter. Instead, he is presented as clumsy, prone to mistakes and somewhat unplanned in his mission of misery. This invites the viewer to playfully believe in him for 80 minutes; believe that he could actually exist, as his human error, is all too familiar.

The film is carried along by the internal monologue of the killer, his unnerving descriptions of past childhood events and his previous violent shenanigans are extremely powerful; mainly due to the fact they have been lifted from documented confessions of actual serial killers from the viewer’s world. From the beginning, the film moves slowly but creepily along, initially free from extreme violence and at a pace that is unheard of in mainstream violent horror movies. However, the film turns its head and snarls at the viewer, particularly in one scene, influential and comparable to the extreme underpass assault in Gasper Noe’s Irreversible (2002).

If you pray at the alter of Gaspar Noe you may be intrigued to hear that Angst has been cited by the man himself in several interviews, as an influence on his film Seul Contre Tous  [I Stand Alone] (1998). Noe saw the French distributed version of Angst in his youth (re-titled as Schizophrenia which was distributed on VHS by VDS Video). The rare opening scene of Schizophrenia (sadly edited from Angst) serves to the viewer a presentation of photographic stills (similar to Noe’s movie), comprising of the protagonist’s family portraits, and the photographic evidence of the weapons used in our character’s previous murder; all this combined, connotes a documentary style fable. The viewer of the French version is also treated to the footage of the original killing that imprisons our character in the first place, prior to his release in the opening of Angst.

But there is light?
There is a surprising four-legged presence of humour in this film, in the shape of a dachshund dog, which is owned by one of the victims, and whose performance when it comes to loyalty (and a pair of false teeth) is incredibly funny.

What helped this film stand out from the usual 80’s stalking ‘slasher’ movies, found on the DPP list, are the excellent performances delivered by all parties involved (including the dog). The camera work is suffocating, the use of a body attached camera, at times gives the impression that you are hovering above the killers shoulders, in an almost spirit fashion. The camera, attached to the actor’s waist, swings and tilts about, creating a drug induced visionary experience, not too dissimilar to the bar scene in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973). 

The only problem I have with this film is that it is still unavailable officially in the UK, the US and basically everywhere, except Germany. The two-disc DVD box set of Angst (distributed by Epix Media), can be picked up from the German Amazon site, however, sadly there are no English subtitles included. Also to rub salt in, I discovered on this release, there is an interview with the actor Erwin Leder and Klaus Schulze (the composer of the soundtrack, known to many as a member of the German Prog-Rock group, Tangerine Dream).

I might add that this film suffered terribly from distribution right from the start. In the 80’s, British video distributors didn’t touch it due to the video nasty fever that was sweeping the nation, and in the US it was suggested that if distributed, it should carry a XXX rating, which would force Angst on to the shelves alongside pornographic material.

I suggest, when searching the World Wide Web for more information (if you catch my drift); do consider searching under the title of Schizophrenia. You need to view the film in its original cut; and again, the official German DVD release of Angst still has the opening scene missing.

Come on Gerald, the rest of the world is ready for some Angst…

Yours Sincerely,
Mr. A Fan.

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