Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Film #20: The German Chainsaw Massacre (18)

Released: 1990
Directed by: Christoph Schlingensief 
Original title: Das Deutsche Kettensägenmassaker 
Also known as: Blackest Heart 

Well this has to be a contender for the weirdest title I’ve ever watched! I hadn’t actually heard of this film before a joint venture – Shock and Fear in German & Dutch Cinema – by the Showroom Cinema and the Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Sheffield. The film was written, shot and finished within three weeks of German reunification and, after initial critical praise and even some awards, was practically outlawed and never screened on television. So of course I had to see what it was all about.

The film opens with documentary footage of Germany’s reunification celebrations, followed by an explanation that of all the people in the GDR who decided to move, 4% never arrived. The film suggests that the people who disappeared were murdered and turned into sausages by a cannibalistic family of butchers just over the former border. Yep. 

Ostensibly, the plot centres around Clara (Karina Fallenstein) who kills her abusive husband and heads over to the other side to be with her boyfriend. When they meet, they are pounced upon by the aforementioned family, all of whom seem to be each other's siblings and parents simultaneously and have some rather odd sexual peccadilloes. This description may make it sound as though the film has a linear plot. It doesn’t. It’s absolute mayhem, and the actors look like they're having a whale of a time going way over the top.

Schlingensief both pays homage to and screws with horror classics such as Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in an attempt to express his disgust at the post-reunification mindset and the encroachment of capitalism. I don’t like gory movies, and it is extremely violent, but the special effects and production values are so poor and unbelievable that I found myself laughing the whole way through. Without some contextual background, it would be easy just to view this as an hour-long assault on the eyes and ears, but there is more to it than that.

*It's also worth noting that the subtitles aren't that great, and are missing in some places, although I suppose that does fit in with the slapdash feel of the whole thing.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Film #19: Yella (12)

Released: 2007 
Directed by: Christian Petzold

This is a difficult film to describe without giving the entire game away, so this post will be pretty short. In an attempt to shake off Ben, her ex, Yella (Nina Hoss) leaves her home town and starts a new accounting job in Hanover. When that doesn’t pan out, she takes up with Philipp – a seemingly decent guy who works for a slightly shady investment company – in a working relationship that could turn into something more meaningful and personal. 

But Ben – who flips from pathetic and needy to chilling and intimidating – simply refuses to give up, following her wherever she goes. As her work with Philipp develops, she adopts a tougher, business-like persona, with some unfortunate consequences. And through it all she seems to be haunted by recurring sounds and images of water. Is she imagining things? Losing her grip on reality through fear of her ex? Nina Hoss gives a nicely understated and often silent performance in this disorientating story. Not recommended if you’re after action and clear plot development, but otherwise well worth a look.