Mar 29, 2013

Moritz, Dear Moritz


It is hard to believe now, but when I was like 10 or 11 years old, I thought that the Cameron Crowe penned teen coming-of-age sex comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) directed by Amy Heckerling was  one of the most subversive and delightfully delinquent films that I had ever seen, but nowadays I can only find such a film mildly entertaining, even if only for the fact that one is supposed to believe Sean Penn is a pot-addled Aryan philistine beach bum as opposed to a pot-addled Judeo-Catholic commie with a temper problem. Although I rarely watch coming-of-age films nowadays as I came-of-age what seems to be a rather long time ago, I recently decided to take a chance on the crazy kraut teen ‘comedy’ Moritz, Dear Moritz (1978) aka Moritz, lieber Moritz directed by Hark Bohm (North Sea Is Dead Sea, Für immer und immer). Admittedly, until rather recently, I had no idea that Bohm – a Fassbinder actor whose brother Marquard Bohm (Deadlock, Beware of a Holy Whore) was a somewhat popular German cult actor – was an 'auteur' in his own right who has directed some of the most anarchic and raunchy coming-of-age films in cinema history that put those churned out by Hollywood, especially the so-called ‘Brat Pack’ flicks, to shame. As someone who tends to play scrawny skidmark of characters, including a stupid hippie bastard in Rote Sonne (1970) aka Red Sun directed by Rudolf Thome who thinks he can wage a leftist revolution against weather and the Waylon Smithers-like character “Senkenberg” in Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979), I must say I was rather shocked to learn Hark Bohm directed a film in which a teenager cut outs his teacher’s tongue and brutally beats a cat to death, but such is the world of the darkly comedic coming-of-age flick Moritz, Dear Moritz – a teen flick made for adults about a slightly disturbed fellow named Moritz who loves staring at his positively pulchritudinous aunt through a peephole and fantasizing about the many methods by which he can voyeuristically observe and/or sadistically torture his arrogant adult enemies in a variety of highly imaginative scenarios that surely must have inspired the deranged dream-sequences in Berlin auteur Jörg Buttgereit’s arthouse splatter flicks. 

 Coming from a nice upper-middle class family, enfant terrible teen Moritz Stuckmann (Michael Kebschull in his first of only two movie roles) is naturally the laughing stock of his particularly posh and pretentious high school because his father (Walter Klosterfelde), who ran his family’s 200-year-old business out of business in record time, is currently unemployed and spends all his free time studying American Indians. During the beginning of Moritz, Dear Moritz, Moritz is run over by a car while showing off for a girl on his bike. On top of establishing the fact that Moritz is far from the luckiest of young men, the boy also calls that man who ran him over an “asshole,” thus proving he does not take shit from anyone, especially bald bourgeois bastards whose lives revolve around upgrading their Mercedes. Although Moritz resents his pestering mother (Kyra Mladeck), he has a special love for his sardonic and terminally ill grandmother (veteran Hungarian-Jewish actress Grete Mosheim, who starred in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s early 1924 gay silent film Michael and pro-Jewish propaganda flicks like Dreyfus (1930) directed by Richard Oswald) – a feisty elderly woman who shares flasks of liquor with her teenage grandson and even tries to convince him to bring extra sleeping pills next time so she can commit suicide and do away with her miserable life. Moritz has special ‘sensual’ feelings for his statuesque aunt and makes sure to peep through the keyhole every time she goes in the bedroom or uses the bathroom. At school, Moritz is a laughing stock among his posh peers, who describe him as a “spastic” and tease him about his failure of a father, and his own teacher even says he is probably more suited for doing ‘manual labor.’ Disgusted with his own prissy peers, Moritz unites with some cool proletarian youth who ride skateboards and have a rock ‘n’ roll band, which he joins as a saxophonist. Herr Moritz also spends a good amount of his time stalking a blonde and voluptuous Christian girl around town. 

 Like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Moritz, Dear Moritz has a number of dream-sequences, but the difference being that instead of featuring fantasies about girls taking off their tops and winning surfing contests, Bohm’s films have more to do with S&M splatter and horror films, even if these sometimes sickening scenarios are meant to be farcical. An exceedingly eccentric and slightly autistic young man, Moritz is the constant object of persecution and discipline and the only way he can seek revenge is daydreaming such things as his bitchy mother's tit being mangled via a rabid cat and performing a surprisingly sadistic surgical procedure on his defenseless and naked math teacher who is tied to a table that involves cutting up his tongue with scissors and cutting opening his stomach, placing live honeybees in his organs, and sewing him back up while his whole class watches. Of course, Moritz has a violent side and wastes no time brutally beating a cat to death against a tree that killed his pet rat in a scene no less brutal than the callous kitty killing scenes in Harmony Korine’s Gummo (1997), thus proving the wealthy just make for more sophisticated killers. Of course, Moritz also has a couple less disturbing daydreams, including visualizing a group of grade school children playing with guns and actually killing one another. Needless to say, if there ever was a film that could have prevented the unhinged young men who committed the Columbine killings from going on their rather pointless rampage, it is most certainly Moritz, Dear Moritz – a titillating and seemingly therapeutic film to help those sometimes unhealthy young men suffering from an acute case of angst and pubescent sexual repression. 

 Undoubtedly, with one look at director Hark Bohm, I think 100% of people will agree that he is an archetypical nerd with a particularly pathetic physique, a more than gulky face with four-eyes, and a high voice and sniveling essence that would probably lead some to believe he was a pedophile and his adolescent-obsessed films do nothing to help this very potential assumption. Personally, I do not think Bohm is a pathetic pedo, but a man who suffered a misspent youth due to his overwhelming geekiness and his films are just a way to live vicariously through his characters the teenage years he never had. Easily surpassing Clu Gulager’s kiddy arthouse short A Day with the Boys (1969) in terms of its subversiveness, albeit executed in a more tongue-in-cheek fashion, Moritz, Dear Moritz is a rare coming-of-age flick that everyone from jaded gorehounds to arthouse princesses can appreciate, sort of like François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959) meets Buttgereit's Hot Love (1985).  Indeed, if you have an angsty adolescent son and and want to give him some proper early life lessons as he transitions into manhood, then it is probably best for you get him to watch Moritz, Dear Moritz, and sadistically fantasize about dismembering such depressingly droll and vapid characters as Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, as opposed to fetishizing them (and ultimately transitioning into a rampant homosexual, or worse yet, changing his name from "Tony" to "Tonya").

-Ty E

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