Jul 25, 2012
Admittedly, German auteur Marian Dora’s arthouse exploitation flick Cannibal (2006) – a deadly serious reconstructed depiction of the intimate cock-chomping antics of real-life gay cannibal Armin Meiwes and his willing lover/dinner – left a notably profound impression on me. Opening with images of miscegenating cannibalistic serial-killer Jeffrey Dahmer and the Third Reich and featuring some of the most audaciously aberrant ‘love’ scenes ever captured on digital video (and that includes hardcore pornography), Cannibal is a delightfully deranged tribute to the wild and wonderful cryptic world of homo-cidal sadomasochism. Needless to say, I was quite excited when I learned about Marian Dora’s second feature-length film The Angel’s Melancholia (2009) aka Melancholie Der Engel; a 165 minute neo-pagan cinematic nachtmahr of dreamy Dionysian depravity that features a bombastic blitzkrieg of expressive and sometimes strikingly therapeutic portrayals of coprophilia, urolagnia (aka watersports), genital mutilation, animal cruelty, and melodramatic left-wing hero worship. Including music by swarthy American-born Israelite David A. Hess of The Last House on the Left (1972) infamy and featuring lonely scenic walks through Auschwitz concentration camp by the film’s two lead anti-heroes, The Angel’s Melancholia is a vehemently visceral window into the post-WWII German psyche and the death-drive-afflicted mania and scatological perversity that such ethno-masochistic self-loathing entails. Following in the aesthetic and thematic footsteps of his fellow countrymen Jörg Buttgereit (Nekromantik, Der Todesking) and Andreas Bethmann (Der Todesengel aka Angel of Death: Fuck or Die), as well as Italian auteur Ruggero Deodato (Waves of Lust, Cannibal Holocaust), The Angel’s Melancholia is an unflinching work of noisome and loathsome yet lavishly assembled cinematic artistry that wholly transcends its influences, thus sailing subversive sicko sinema to a new uncharted sea of sadistic and satyric extremity. Forget Siegfried Kracauer's neo-Marxist psychobabble on the German expressionist films of the Weimar Republic, The Angel’s Melancholia is a truly sordid spectacle of a spiritually devitalized, emotionally demoralized, and self-flagellating people that worships death and strives unceasingly for self-annihilation; or at least one would be led to believe that is the case after watching such an innately intemperate and inimical post-völkisch work.
During the beginning of The Angel’s Melancholia, we are introduced to two loving yet loony friends: Katze; a slightly overweight Nordic degenerate with a keen fondness for warm urine and Brauth; a seemingly Semitic Christ-like/Satan-like messianic figure who initially gives off the impression of being the more dominant of the two fiendish confidantes. These two bodacious bros of brutality haven’t seen each other in years, but they are eternally united due to their past communal excursions in debauched perversity. On their way to achieving abyssal Arcadia, the two cunning comrades pick-up three girls who have nil inkling as to what sort of vicious licentiousness the mysterious men will force them to partake in. Katze and Brauth initially cruise an amusement park to find potential female concubines. I found this segment of The Angel's Melancholia to be especially effective in setting the tone for the rest of the film. Echoing the foreboding phantasmagoric atmosphere of Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls (1962), but especially Curtis Harrington’s cult masterpiece Night Tide (1961), the early carnival segment of The Angel’s Melancholia lets the viewer know that they are about to go on a riveting ride with Brauth acting as a overly extroverted and mesmerizing lead carny/magician of sorts who guides the show and with Katze as his introverted crony who helps carry things along behind the scenes. The deranged dynamic duo is later turned into a threesome when an older but equally demented artist named Heinrich joins the group. The clique eventually settles in an old dilapidated house where they commence their quasi-spiritual journey that includes physical and metaphysical pandemonium, hedonistic degradation, ritualistic torture of a sexually swinish nature, and heathenish animal sacrifices. When not smearing his feces on vaginas, Katze seeks to obtain final transcendence through the defilement, mutilation, and – eventually – the total disintegration of his earthly body, thus becoming – or so it would seem – the much idealized ‘Melancholy Angel.’
What makes The Angel’s Melancholia particularly enthralling and singular, especially for Germanophiles and Germanophobes alike, is the consciously and distinctly Teutonic nature of the film, most specifically within a post-Nazi era context. During his often erratic exploration of mind and body, Katze reflects somberly while visiting the graveside of leftist German New Wave alpha-auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder and the memorial burial ground of Red Army Faction members Jan-Carl Raspe, Gudrun Ensslin, and Andreas Baader; individuals whose piercing hatred of the National Socialist era Germany – the epoch of their parents and grandparents – played a cardinal role in ultimately leading to their total self-destruction. In one notably symbolic scene in The Angel's Melancholia, Katze's corpse can be seen firmly gasping a copy of controversial German novelist Wolfgang Koeppen’s last major work Der Tod in Rom (1954) aka Death in Rome; a novel that sparked nationwide controversy upon its release in Germany due to its uncomplimentary and uniquely critical portrayal of a German family set only a couple years after the Nazi era that does not shy away from holding the entire Fatherland accountable for the sins of its fathers. Katze and Brauth also take a hallucinatory pilgrimage to Auschwitz as if it is some sort of Holy site in a brief but pivotal allegorical scene that symbolizes the internal reasoning behind the characters' deleterious compulsions and self-debasement: the burgeoning burden of guilt of a people that has yet to come to terms with its unscrupulous history and debilitating defeat. While certain Judaic psychoanalysts absurdly described the archetypical National Socialist as an individual that was compelled by the death drive ("Todestrieb"), one can certainly argue that is the case for many German citizens of the post-WWII era as exemplified by popular historical figures like Fassbinder and Badder, thus The Angel’s Melancholia acts as an extremely lucid, veracious, and uncompromising expression of a nation on the break of collective suicide. This phenomenon becomes especially obvious when one examines modern Germany’s steadily declining birth rate and the sort of sadomasochistic pornography that is popular there nowadays. I do not think it is any coincidence that many of the scenic nature scenes featured in The Angel’s Melancholia come off as some sort of grotesque parody of illustrations created by the prestigious völkisch scientist Ernst Haeckel. Needless to say, The Angel’s Melancholia brings new meaning to the National Socialist phrase Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil).
I think it is safe to say that The Angel’s Melancholia is a film that is not for everyone and that even includes certain individuals from the already marginal subculture of thoroughly desensitized Gorehounds due to its artsy fartsy portrayal of fetishistic bloodlust and hermetic view of German history. The film can be best described as a glimpse into the German collective unconscious that illustrates a Ragnarök within the Germanic soul, but it is quite dubious as to whether or not the two lead characters reach any sort authentic rebirth, therefore The Angel’s Melancholia also acts as a sort of metaphoric tombstone for the Fatherland, henceforth giving meaning to the Goethe inspired narration (featured near the conclusion of the film), “All evanescent is but a parable….here, it’s done. The eternal feminine pulls us down.” Despite featuring some of the most ridiculously repugnant scenes ever concocted in celluloid history, The Angel’s Melancholia – in its overwhelming and often odious entirety – is a work about the liberation of mind and soul through self-sacrifice of the body, therefore it would not be absurd to describe the film as a intrinsically spiritual effort, even if it is of an exceedingly nihilistic persuasion. Christ, Crowley, Nietzsche and Wotan may be long dead, but their historical influence lives on in The Angel's Melancholia as exhibited in many scenes featured throughout the film. Only by death can Katze rid himself of the spiritual syphilis that has corroded his sin-ridden soul. One can only speculate in regard to Marian Dora's personal motivations for directing such a fiercely idiosyncratic work, but I think most people will concede that The Angel’s Melancholia is – for better or for worse – one of the most emotionally enervating films ever made. Indeed, in terms of aesthetic malignity, the film indisputably eclipses the cinematic works of Pasolini, Buttgereit, Hussain , Cerdà, and Spasojević. Whether or not The Angel’s Melancholia has as much artistic merit as the films of these compatriot auteur filmmakers of the carnal and callous is quite debatable, but I no doubt found it to be worthwhile as it is a work that I will never consign to oblivion, especially when comparing it to overly stylized and superficial modern German films like Run Lola Run (1998) and Good Bye, Lenin! (2003). At worst, The Angel's Melancholia is a potent work of incandescent decadence and barbarous yet beauteous bliss that offers a crude but uncommonly charming cinematic experience that one might expect to see at a concentration camp in purgatory.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 12:32 AM
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