So it’s the day after the night before. All over Iceland, everyone is waking up to a new dawn, a dawn where everything looks the same but the reality has altered irrevocably. Yes yesterday was election day and in a pique of nostalgia and sheer pigheadedness, enough Icelanders voted in the same clowns who right royally fucked Iceland over a few years back. Oh man, we’re going to have some very interesting years head of us!
So it’s perhaps understandable if everyone got a little hammered last night in order to take away the pain. But even so, things are going to be a little gloomy. and to help with that gloominess, this week’s edition of the Sunday Cult Film Corner, is a deeply disturbing and unpleasant film about a man’s decent into murderous insanity. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ANGST!
Directed in 1983 by Gerald Kargl, Angst opens with a man being released from prison after serving 4 years for killing an elderly woman. But very quickly he feels the urge to hurt and kill people, almost immediately attempting to kill a female taxi driver. However he is unsuccessful and he flees the scene. He then comes across a secluded home where a family live alone. He then take out his murderous obsessions on all of them, while his inner monologue tell of his abusive childhood. And that’s it.
Loosely based on an actual crime case-in 1980 Werner Kniesek from Salzburg horrendously murdered three people, and little known, even in Germany, ANGST is a deeply disturbing and nihilistic film that’s tough going for you to watch at times. Sparse and minimal in its narrative, there is hardly any dialogue spoken by the actors with most of the lines coming in the form of the killers inner thoughts. The film also lays everything out in the open, with no attempts to explain or sympathise the killer’s actions or intentions (It’s likely that the killer is unsure himself). It all just unfolds before your eyes as something bad that just happens with no underlying rationale. There’s no clean-cut ruthlessness or high-end gilding the lily imagery going on here. Everything is portrayed in ultra-realistic bleakness that shows the messy reality that comes from killing people, The murder scenes are extremely unpleasant, drawn out and violent, with a visceralness that would make you think of the murder scenes from Dario Argento. But whereas those scenes were highly sexualized and fetishsized, in ANGST, they are, ugly nasty little affairs that aren’t remotely cool or sexy.
But despite the high levels of violence, ANGST is a very well made film, with an astonishingly high level of skill in the cinematography. Standout scenes include the long opening take as the killer is released from prison which mixes fast moving, irregular camera angles, and the scene in the cafe where the camera focuses close up on the killer’s face as he starts to bug out from the thought that people are watching him. The power in this scene is also down to the acting of Erwin Leder as the killers. Despite uttering almost no dialogue, he gives a very physical, very real performance of a man who is exlpoding in 10 different directions at once that completely goes against the grain of you average cinema serial killer. Whereas those characters are portrayed as hyper intelligent, charming evil geniuses who can quote Shakespeare, Leder’s character can barely keep it together in normal society and comes across like a stunted freak.He cannot control his compulsions and comes across more like a wild animal instead of a sadistic mastermind.
The film has strong parallels with other psycho thrillers such as “Seul Contre Tous,” (Director Gasper Noe cites ANGST as a major influence) and “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.” But if anything this film is even darker, more unflinching and nihilistic that those, and probably shares its darkness more closely with another German horror film “Schramm,” directed by L’enfant terrible film maker Jörg Buttgereit.
ANGST is a film that will make you a little queasy, but as a documentation of the true natures of madness and violence, it certainly doesn’t come harder and nastier than this. Best get that whisky on the go.