Aug 27, 2012

Sukkubus – den Teufel im Leib

As someone who is quite fond of the Teutonic mysticism of the mostly forgotten and often stigmatized German Mountain (bergfilme) of the 1920s and 1930s, I am always interested in seeing contemporary takes on the mostly forgotten film genre. Obsessive Scandinavian-Canadian auteur Guy Maddin (Tales from the Gimli Hospital, My Winnipeg) was somewhat artistically prosperous in his noble attempt at paying tribute to the Mountain film – albeit in a most absurdly and sardonically satiric fashion – with his work Careful (1992); a film that managed to bring oedipal incest and a kaleidoscope of charismatic colors to the typically morally pristine and black-and-white genre. The modern German movie North Face (2008) directed by Philipp Stölzl (Baby, Young Goethe in Love) was also an interesting contemporary take on the Mountain film, notwithstanding the blatant and clichéd ethno-masochistic message tacked on at the conclusion. Undoubtedly, one of the most outlandish, original, and sensational post-WW2 takes on the Mountain film is Sukkubus – den Teufel im Leib (1989) aka Succubus – Devil in the Flesh directed by Georg Tressler; a Vienna-born auteur who previously assembled works ranging from Nicholas Ray-inspired teenage drama flicks (Teenage Wolfpack) to episodes for Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (The Magnificent Rebel) to trashy yet tempting science-fiction sex comedies (2069: A Sex Odyssey). With his last major film (the director would end his filmmaking career in the undignified realm of TV-movies) Sukkubus – unlike with many of his previous Hollywood-inspired films – Tressler got more in tune with his Germanic roots by deriving it on the myth of the "Sennentuntschi"; a tale about a doll that morphs into an evil and vengeful female demon that was traditionally told throughout the German-speaking Alps (from Bavaria to Switzerland), but was most popular on the Swiss side of the mountain, which also happens to be the setting of the film. Set in the early 19th century on a remote slope high up on the Swiss Alps, Sukkubus opens with the following ‘fairly tale’ introduction, “A Swiss legend tells of three herdsmen who let themselves in for the powers of evil and were punished gruesomely for their outrage.” Such generalized and less than detailed words offer a frank but (thankfully) understated hint as to the oddly eccentric and equally exploitative yet classically atmospheric (at least in the German Mountain sense) essence of Sukkubus; probably the world’s only German Mountain-Horror hybrid and one of Germany’s few decent post-WWII horror films.

Admittedly, my initial interest in Sukkubus came from the fact that German absurdist auteur Christoph Schlingensief (Terror 2000, Mutters Maske) acted as the assistant director for the film. Indeed, although the Sukkubus seems like it could have only been sporadically directed by Schlingensief, it does feature some sprinklings of exquisite exploitation, sneering sexual perversity, and a risqué roast of German kultur. Sukkubus centers around three very divergent peasant herdsmen: Senn (Peter Simonischek); the stoic and notably Aryan leader of the threesome who seems to be in his mid-30s, Hirt (Giovanni Früh); a slothful and sexually degenerate fellow who has a proclivity towards Schnapps and young boys despite being middle-aged, and Hüterbub (Hüterbub); a thirteen year old boy who – aside from deriving great satisfaction from the dubious act of having his favorite cow “Bruni” lick salt from his body – seems like a rather normal, if often petrified, lad. After a night of indulging in one of the Germanic people’s greatest vices (aka alcohol), the two elder men decide to built a primitive sex doll out of an odd face-shaped root found by the boy in a cave. To their ecstatic and intoxicated amazement, the rather dull woodpile morphs into a voluptuous lassie’s ass, thus beginning the ferocious fecund curse in seemingly female form that plagues the three sexually-repressed fellows for the rest of the film. Swarthy but also stunning and alluring in appearance, the female apparition more resembles the Salome of Christian folklore than the sort of statuesque Nordic beauty one would expect to be living on the mountaintop. While also protecting themselves from the unclad succubus (played by Pamela Prati of Umberto Lenzi's Ironmaster and Andrea Bianchi's Io Gilda), the three men also battle each other, as well as the hallucinations brought upon their own wandering minds due to living in abject isolation. Needless to say, Sukkubus is far from being as holy as Arnold Fanck’s Holy Mountain (1926) nor as aesthetically delectable as Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light (1932), but it does keep up with the tradition of metaphysical Germanic mysticism typical of the Mountain film genre, albeit in a manner also palatable to culturally unrefined horror fans.

Considering that Switzerland is the nation that produced “Aryan Christ” (or so he was once dubbed by one of his most determined detractors) Carl Gustav Jung – the German-Swiss man who coined the phrase “collective unconscious” (a collective, impersonal unconscious of archetypes inherited by members of the same race) – it is most fitting that Sukkubus – den Teufel im Leib, a work of atavistic-exploitation cinema, would be set in the same country. It should also be noted that the dialect of German spoken in the film is an idiosyncratic mix of German and German-Swiss, thus lending a certain cultural authenticity to the film that further compliments its austere Alpine atmosphere. Indeed, like the vintage German Mountain films, the setting itself of Sukkubus gives off the feeling that something that is omniscient is foreboding within the mountains, but what makes Georg Tressler’s hodgepodge horror work different is that nature and bare-skin become nefarious as opposed to rapturous, and as a consequence, the films acts in direct opposition to the sanctified view of the natural outdoors held by prominent völkisch movements (Wandervogel and National Socialists), artists (Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, Fidus, Ivo Saliger) and thinkers (Hermann Hesse, C.G. Jung) during the early twentieth century throughout the German-speaking world. Of course, being of a deliberately debauched and sexually suggestive nature (e.g. cow milk mimicking cum) throughout, Sukkubus is a work that is more likely to inspire erotomania than ideas of lebensreform among viewers.

-Ty E

1 comment:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Hallucinations brought on by aimless wandering, girl-tal deterioration, and abject isolation...sounds exactly like me ! ! !.