Thursday 7 December 2017

Der Fan (aka The Fan)


Der Fan (aka The Fan)
Germany 1982 Directed by Eckhart Schmidt
Mondo Macabre Blu Ray Zone A/B/C

Warning: Okay, this is almost certainly going to have all
the spoilers in this so... if you don’t want to know, don’t read.

Der Fan (aka The Fan) is just one of many movies called The Fan and about dealing with obsessive fans. Why there have been so many movies called this is beyond me. I personally think it should be illegal to call any two movies by the same title unless they are a remake or an adaptation. That saves all kinds of trouble like if you wanted to see a James Marshall boxing movie and instead found yourself watching something where Russel Crowe wears a toga and shouts at a load of Romans. Or sitting down to watch a Charlie Chan movie set in a mine and instead watching Pierce Brosnan racing a tank around a foreign land. The film industry really needs to get on that.

So, anyway, Der Fan starts out with some stark, dark, somewhat typographically aggressive orange on black credits with these wooshing noises playing in the background. We are then introduced to the main protagonist/antagonist of the movie, Simone, played by Désirée Nosbusch... who was apparently a pretty famous TV presenter when she made this film, at just seventeen years old. Considering the amount of the last third of the film she walks around in a state of undress doing things which people tend not to do outside of a zombie film, it’s no wonder that she tried to have the film blocked from being released at the time (although certainly puzzling since she agreed to shoot it)). I guess it’s not the best look to go with when trying to preserve a squeeky clean public image. Of course, the resulting publicity/scandal only helped secure the film a much broader audience than it might have normally had and so, perhaps, it’s something that people can be grateful for.

The film follows Nosebusch’s obsessive fan around town as she frequently skips school and, on a daily basis, goes to wait in line at the post office to find out if she has received a letter from the man of her dreams, the pop star of the movie, ‘R’, played by Bodo Steiger who, it turns out, was also a pop star. In fact, he was in a band called Rheingold and it’s Rheingold who provide the almost unbearably neutral (but also kind of cool) Euro-pop soundtrack/score to Der Fan. So Simone writes to ‘R’ everyday and completely fails to figure that the man receives so much fan mail that there’s no way he would read this stuff himself. She becomes withdrawn from people, misses a lot of school and generally becomes an almost anti-social  and somewhat violently aggressive, teenage hermit because of her obsession with him. She even attacks a postman for the lack of a response from her hero. There’s lots of voice over of her on the soundtrack as she goes through the empty motions of her existence and talks to her hero in her head with a lot of moving camera as we follow her through her days.

There are some nice stealth moments in the film too... such as when Simone's father, who has the say on what is watched on television in the house, is watching a Western when a show starts which she wants to watch because ‘R’ is making an appearance and she wants to see if he uses the secret sign for her, which she has made up in her head. The father eventually gets tired of the Western and switches to the show in time for Simone to see some of ‘R’s appearance... however, he then gets bored and switches back to the Western. Simone makes a play for the TV remote and they are both fighting and grabbing at each other to maintain possession of this precious household object. In the background audio, however, we hear the sound of a gunfight on the Western and it’s a perfect counterpoint to the visual imagery as we see the father and daughter combatants with the sound of shooting as they struggle for domination. Nice stuff.

Of course, at some point things have to change and so Simone gives ‘R’ one more week to respond... a week punctuated on the film by big, visual intertitles from Day 1 to Day 7 as ‘R’ fails to make any kind of reply. So she runs away from home, hitchhikes to Munich (which brings its own, troubling encounter) and goes to find him... hanging outside a TV studio where she knows he will have to be at some point. And, after a day or two, he turns up outside said studio and starts signing fan’s autographs. She watches from afar but he notices her (because he is attracted to her) and goes to speak to her. She faints and, of course, this is her entry (albeit serendipitously) into ‘R world' as she is taken inside to recover, watches the recording and then is taken by him to a flat as he goes to a place loaned to him by a friend who is not in the country. He says they won’t be bothered because not even his manager knows about the place. There’s a lovely shot in all this sequence where Simone is in the car and the camera goes into a slow zoom until it finally reaches to just her lips. She opens her mouth and we are enveloped inside her darkness as a transition to the next shot.

And, as if to push a visual metaphor, here’s where things get a lot darker for these two main characters. We have the completely minimalistic, untalkative Simone and the big pop star ‘R’, who is also pretty minimalistic and neutral in his outlook, seemingly as an extension of his very monotone pop personae. ‘R’ pushes Simone into sex but the sex scene is quite slow, bizarre and ritualistic, with ‘R’ taking a fairly dominant role and with Simone seeming to be very naive in her performance... which is something ‘R’ seems fairly dissatisfied with. So he decides to give her the brush off, telling her she can stay at the place for a few months if she likes, since nobody knows about it and he makes for the door to leave the place.

And here is where it gets really spoilery people... you have been warned.

In reaction to ‘R’s behaviour, Simone bashes him on the back of the head with a statuette in anger. Alas, for ‘R’, the statuette has an outstretched arm which completely penetrates the back of ‘R’s head, killing him instantly as it takes out his brain. The still naked Simone is a little upset at first as she tries to figure out what to do next and, I have to say, the ‘alarm/siren-like' music on the soundtrack at this point sounds like it’s been heavily influenced (if not needle dropped in) by a certain passage of Goblin’s score for Dario Argento’s Suspiria, it seemed to me. However, clarity soon comes as the still naked Simone finds one of those electric kitchen knives and, in a curiously bloodless scene, she cuts ‘R’ into more manageable parcels and stores them in a big freezer, before she starts cooking bits of him up and eating him. After a number of days or weeks (we don’t know), when she has no more left of him to eat, she grinds his bones up before depositing the powder into a bag, shaving her head and then taking him for a walk to scatter him. Then she goes home to be reunited with her parents but there’s still a light twist to come at the end.

All in all, the neutrality of the two lead performances in this, not to mention the deadpan soundtrack, make Der Fan quite an interesting, almost hypnotically addictive viewing experience. Despite the normally shocking nature of the content of the last twenty minutes or so of the movie, none of the imagery in this seems like it's really played for shock or exploitative effect. Some of it is actually quite tastefully represented and somehow, although it has almost nothing to it in terms of content, it somehow manages to feel like a film with some substance to it and, if anything, it just seems like a really good movie to demonstrate the perils of the effect of fandom on a person’s mental health. Mondo Macabre’s multi region dual format DVD/Blu Ray edition of the film is uncut and is the kind of clear/crisp transfer you would expect from a company of their calibre. If you are already a fan of Der Fan then this relatively newish Mondo Macabre version is certainly a good way to go. If you’re not... well if you do want to check it out some day, this is still the best version to grab as an intro to the movie, I reckon (just like me) so... yeah... interesting film and one which seems to have caused a bit of a stir in Germany at the time of its release. Worth a look.

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