03 March 2009

Sheer Madness (Heller Wahn) - 1983

I think this is the first movie I've seen by Magarethe von Trotta other than 2005's schmaltzy but appealing Rosenstrasse. And, well, of course she codirected The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum with her then husband Volker Schlondorff. This film stars Hanna Schygulla and Angela Winkler, who played Katharina Blum, and it centers on their friendship. It's typical of German movies of its time. It's spare, less flashy than American films. The template for these movies seems to be a few minimal threads that move along, slowly reach a climactic union and unravel. One thing you notice is that while these German movies tend to be more political in nature, they also tend to have a less omniscient voice. If Sigmund Kracauer argued that Expressionist film paved the way for the Nazi uprising, a claim I think is pretty dubious anyway, I can certainly suggest that the cocksure attitude of American films, with their lack of ambiguity or loose ends, has done its part in creating a nation of American fascists. The cinematographer on this film was Michael Ballhaus, a frequent Fassbinder collaborator, and here and there are touches that remind you of Fassbinder. However, I think that it has more in common with other directors of the time, like Schlondorff.

The scene where Hanna Schygulla sings "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" (an hour and nine minutes into the film) is definitely the highlight. I found myself eventually sucked into this movie but found the ending somehow unsatisfying. Of course, given that it's a German movie from pre-1990, you have at least a 90% chance of being dissatisfied with the ending. It's not terrible but it dropped the movie from a B to a C+.

Hanna Sings. And yes, I think it is somewhat more interesting in the context of the film, now that I've seen it.

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