Jul 10, 2013

Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?




Credited as being co-directed by both German New Cinema alpha-auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder (In a Year of 13 Moons, Berlin Alexanderplatz) and his early mentor/eventual business partner/later enemy Michael Fengler (who also co-directed The Niklashausen Journey (1970) that same year with Fassbinder), Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? (1970) aka Warum läuft Herr R. Amok? was also the first film shot in color associated with the Fass-bande Anti-Theater, as well as one of RWF's first big cinematic hits. While Fassbinder apparently only sketched scene outlines for the film and even credited the work more as his co-director's than his own, both he and Fengler were given a directorial award (“Film Award in Gold”) for Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?—a mostly improvised work that was shot over a mere 13 day period—at the 1971 German Film prize competition. Additionally, Hanna Schygulla, who plays a supporting role in the film, said that in a 2003 interview with the Village Voice that Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? was completely directed by Fengler who, in stark contrast to Fassbinder’s directing style, had the actors completely improvise their dialogue for the film, hence its almost documentary-like feel. Probably more insightful, however, is that Fassbinder listed Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? in his 1981 “Hitlist of German Films”, which includes favorite and most hated films of German New Cinema, including his own, as “The Most Disgusting” among Teutonic cinema. Not one to mince words, Fassbinder also listed Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? co-director Michael Fengler and star Kurt Raab in his “Hitlist” as being amongst his “Worst Experience” working with individuals in his filmmaking career. Still, whether it is entirely the result of Fengler’s almost-distinguishable direction or not, Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?, not unlike the Ulli Lommel directed and Raab penned/starring work Tenderness of the Wolves (1973) aka Die Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe certainly bares a shade or two of Fassbinder’s auteur signature, which is undoubtedly the result of his irrefutable dictatorship over his Superstars and collaborators, namely those that belonged to the pre-cinema Anti-Theater that he led with a sadomasochistic iron-fist. A sort of thematic and aesthetic prototype for what would be his first domestic commercial success, The Merchant of Four Seasons aka (1971) Händler der vier Jahreszeiten, Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? follows an underappreciated middle-class cuckold of a man who is patronized by a wife he does not love and who has a little loser for a son and ultimately commits self-slaughter in the end, but not before committing total familicide, after being suffocated by too much bourgeois banality and suburban soullessness as a man whose subconscious and conscious hit head on like a runaway train into a brick-wall. A sort of proto-Dogme 95 flick with a pseudo-cinéma vérité aesthetic featuring intentionally mundane improvised dialogue, Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? is the sick, sardonic and fiercely foreboding story of a man who is so overwhelmed by his buried negative and violent emotions and inability to express himself in any meaningful way that he hangs himself in his work restroom, but not before taking his wife and child with him. 



 Herr Raab (Kurt Raab) has slicked and properly parted hair that Adolf Hitler would have certainly approved of and his three-piece suit undoubtedly compliments his ostensibly professional appearance, which is quite important for an office lemming of a technical draftsman who sees it as the utter most importance to please his boss with good and honest hard work, but obtaining a promotion seems to be a somewhat impossible task. Raab’s boss (Franz Maron), who is a rather swarthy and even sinister man that bears a striking resemblance to a member of the Romulan alien race from the Star Trek universe, wants him to go beyond the basic technical work and become a serious player and problem solver for the corporate team, but he always seems to be somewhere else as an innate introvert with somewhat sub-par social skills and seemingly autistic qualities. Mr. Raab gets along well with his mostly mundane co-workers, who include Fassbinder’s mother Lilo Pempeit and Fass-bande regulars Peter Moland and Harry Baer (Fassbinder’s main “artistic consultant” and assistant director), so his sanity, or lack thereof, is never questioned. While a respectable member of society who gets along with his coworkers and neighbors as a sort of marginally acknowledged 'non-entity', Raab has a propensity for making an unintentional ass of himself, especially in a scene where he attempts to buy a vinyl record for his wife at a local music shop featuring a song he heard on the radio, but forgets the name of the album/artist so to his humiliation and to the humor of the salesgirls that work there, he pathetically attempts to hum the tunes in a less than lackluster manner. Aside from having a patronizing wife (Lilith Ungerer, who being someone Raab apparently did not like in real-life, makes for immaculate casting) who figuratively carries around his testicles in her purse, demands that he buy every needless she wants, and provides an incessant source of noise via her busybody meanderings with friends and family members, Herr Raab has a young son named Amadeus (played by co-director Michael Fengler’s real-life son Johannes Fengler) who, unlike all the kids in his class, has an incapacity to learn such hard arithmetic equations as 6X6 and 6X7 due to ‘anti-social’ behavior revolving around his lack of concentration and innate introverted nature, something he shares in common with his father.


 Suffering from migraines and probably cognizant of the fact that it is only a matter of time before he explodes with a storm of violence, Raab tries in vain to seek help from a psychologist as the overwhelmingly prosaic nature of evening family dinners, sad Sunday walks in the park, and lonely nights watching TV programs that are just as banal as his own existence are really starting to overwhelm his unconscious and are starting to take conscious forms. The only time Raab seems to be able to fully enjoy himself and really be himself is when meeting with an old friend (played by Fassbinder’s best friend/composer Peer Raben), but this only comes to all the more highlight the sheer and utter pathetic nature of his existence as the two perform an absolutely horrendous cover of a melancholy song via grating harmonica. After dealing with his wife, a woman who does not work but has the gall to complain to her hubby that “the older you get, more stupid you get, and fatter,” and a nauseating neighbor (played by original Fassbinder Superstar Irm Hermann) babbling about nothing and unable to fix the reception of his television screen so as to block these whiny women out, Herr Raab finally explodes with an act of irrevocable violence, killing both women, as well as his son, rather absurdly using an ugly bourgeois ornamental candlestick in a furious and impulsive act of familicide. The next day, the police come to arrest Raab at his work and ultimately find that he has killed himself via hanging in the bathroom, symbolically one of the few places where he was able to find personal privacy and ‘relief’ from those individuals that ultimately helped contribute to his going over the edge and committing one of the most work acts imaginable.  If nothing else, Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?, through a series of seriously monotonous scenes, does a more than sufficient job in answering why a bourgeois kraut cuckold transforms into a coldblooded killer of the spouse-sacrificing and pedigree-purging sort in a cruel celluloid climax that makes for a more potent argument against capitalism and the bourgeois than anything that kosher conman Karl Marx, himself a failed member of the bourgeois who lived off the generosity of others, ever wrote.



 Despite evidence to the contrary, Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? (1970) is still regarded and advertised as being a Rainer Werner Fassbinder film to this day, including on official DVD releases and—more importantly—on the official Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation website. Seeing as Fassbinder later distanced himself from directing static and minimalistic Godardian works, it is no surprise that he would later distance himself from Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? and even go so for far as describing it as one of “The Most Disgusting” films in all of German New Cinema. Additionally, co-director Michael Fengler, who would ultimately make a fortune producing the German wunderkind filmmaker’s films and acting as his business partner, would later go on to describe Fassbinder as “a bad, bad guy” and would get in a heated legal battle with his mother Lilo Pempeit over the ownership of the films after the Teutonic auteur’s premature death in 1982, thus it is only natural that he would try to take artistic credit for any of the RWF films he could and Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? is easily the most blatant example of this. Even if Fassbinder did not physically direct the film, his quasi-incestuous and over domineering influence on the actors as the undisputed Führer of the Anti-Theater is quite apparent in Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?, a film that has the blatant essence of an early RWF work. Considering that Michael Fengler was only responsible for directing a handful of films after Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? and would totally quit his involvement with filmmaking in every context—be it as director, producer, or otherwise—shortly after his enemy/business partner's tragic death only goes to show that he was nothing without R.W. Fassbinder and certainly no artist nor 'auteur' in his own right. Assuredly an anomaly among Fassbinder’s oeuvre, Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? is, at best, a revolutionary cinematic work foretelling the Dogme 95 movement and the arthouse realistic works of Gus van Sant, Larry Clark, and Harmony Korine, and, at worst, a novel experiment of cinematic improvisation with an almost direction-less direction to it, owed to the fact that the man who should have been totally responsible for creating it was all but absent from its actual production. Of course, like Tenderness of the Wolves (1973), Satan's Brew (1976), and The Stationmaster's Wife (1977), Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? would be nothing without star/production designer Kurt Raab’s hypnotic, if not strikingly pathetic, charisma, thus maybe he deserves the true ‘authorship’ of the film, but judging by the absolute horrendous and totally trashy monetary-inclined post-Fassbinder women-in-prison (WiP) film he directed, The Island of the Bloody Plantation (1983) aka Die Insel der blutigen Plantage aka Escape from Blood Plantation, I might be giving him too much credit.  Either way, Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? is Kurt Raab at his finest and the ever-so-obsessive R.W. Fassbinder at his most creatively neglectful, which made for a rather interesting and incendiary celluloid recipe indeed.



-Ty E

9 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

In that first picture of the DVD cover the geezers facial expression makes it look as though hes trying to do an impersonation of that foul and odious British faggot Frankie Howerd.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

He also looks a bit like a fat bastard version of that British filth John Cleese.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Maybe Fassbinder and Fengler didn`t get along because Fengler was a normal heterosexual and Fassbinder was a loathsome fairy.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Raab was a faggot just like Fassbinder, the bloody disgusting pansy queer bastard.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Kurt Raab actually snuffed it almost 5 months to the day after Heather (from AIDS, the bloody stupid poof).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Now heres an interesting bit of errie trivia that i`m sure you didn`t know, the day that Kurt Raab snuffed it (June 28th 1988) was exactly 18 years to the very day after the initial release of "Why Does Herr R Run Amok" in Krautland (June 28th 1970) ! ! !. Like i said, quite errie i think you`ll agree.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Fengler was certainly absolutely right when he described Fassbinder as a "bad, bad guy", Fassbinder really was one of THE most worthless pieces of garbage to ever pollute and besmirch the surface of the planet with his horrifying and sickening existence.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

At least there were a few heterosexuals involved in the making of this film which does go some way to make up for that very ugly previous article about that equally ugly piece of pansy filth Bruce LaBruce.

jimmie t. murakami said...

Hey Ty E, how about reveiwing "Harold and Maude", the 1971 cult classic, not Bruce LaBruces queenie, bitchy, poofy, woofter, pansy queer bastard version.