Aug 25, 2013
Moving to Paris in his late teens, German New Cinema auteur Volker Schlöndorff (Young Törless, The Handmaid's Tale) graduated with a political science degree and then studied at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinematographiques, where he met and became the protégé of Louis Malle, who gave the then-young Teuton his first film job as an assistant director on Zazie in the Metro (1960) aka Zazie dans le métro, where he would ultimately go on to become an AD for such important French films as Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad (1961) and Jean-Pierre Melville's Léon Morin, Priest (1961). Eventually, Schlöndorff would return the favor to Malle by dedicating his work The Ogre (1996) aka Der Unhold to Louis Malle, who ultimately set the German filmmaker to later be one of the most internationally renowned German directors of the post-WWII era, but he would also demonstrate his undying gratitude to his teacher by becoming a rare kraut Francophile filmmaker who essentially made the absurd attempt to shed his Teutonic skin and become a pseudo-frog of sorts. Even Schlöndorff's most recent work Calm at Sea (2011) aka La mer à l'aube—a film about Nazi Huns liquidating poor innocent French commies—unmistakably displays a greater sympathy for the French than the seemingly half-deranged director’s own people. On top of his decided dedication to flagrant Francophilia and far-left politics (the man was married to insufferable feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta for two decades for godsake!), Schlöndorff has also demonstrated that he is willing to go the unforgivable route of becoming a Hollywood-esque hack of sorts who, despite being a native European, opts for shooting historical European films in English with alien American stars, which is taken to a most horrid and aesthetically and culturally reckless degree in his German-French co-production The Ogre, the work he ironically dedicated to monsieur Malle. Based on the book The Erl-King (1970) by French novelist Michel Tournier, The Ogre is a leftist revisionist historical celluloid fairytale about a seemingly autistic halfwit Frenchman played by John Malkovich with an unhealthy obsession with children who by happenstance goes on to become a personal slave of sorts for National Socialist bigwig Hermann Göring and eventually becomes a creepy caretaker/child-snatcher at a Hitler Youth military academy located at an ancient storybook-like castle, only to realize that by saving a spastic and equally autistic Jewish child can he be truly redeemed. Sort of like a shamelessly propagandistic mix between Sydney Pollack’s supremely sardonic and underrated “firmly pro- and anti-war” Castle Keep (1969) and the hugely hokey Hollywood blockbuster Forrest Gump (1994), The Ogre is a potent example why Holy-wood Hebrews like Steven Spielberg do not even need to bother denigrating the name of the German people when native ethno-masochistic krauts directors like Volker Schlöndorff do a much better and bizarrely hateful job of doing it themselves. Featuring Fassbinder Superstar Volker Spengler of In a Year of 13 Moons (1978) fame in the role of Hermann Göring, The Ogre is really a stunning example of how both German New Cinema and the idea of a German National cinema in general has rotted since the premature death of Fassbinder, as well as the great lengths that some self-flagellating filmmakers like Schlöndorff have gone to atone for the ostensible sins of their fathers and grandfathers.
After wishing to a statue of Saint Christopher for the Catholic school he attends to burn down, oddball orphan kid Abel Tiffauges got his wish, but it also resulted in the death of his sole friend, an obese boy addicted to food named Nestor. The year is 1939 and Abel (played by the ever so annoying and gratingly soft-spoken John Malkovich), now 28, naturally grew up to be an even more eccentric and socially retarded individual who has no problem admitting, “All I want to do is help but somehow I always inspire fear in people,” even if his brand of help always results in tragedy. After befriending a spoiled and bratty preteen girl named Martine, Abel finds himself being arrested after the young she-devil falsely claims he molested her, which probably seems like a reasonable allegation to the police as the Frenchman's man-child essence seems like that of a conspiring child molester. Instead of going to jail, Abel is given the option of joining the French army because of the outbreak of the Second World War, which he gladly accepts, but since those froggy rifle-droppers cannot fight and literally prefer wine and fine-dining on the battle field, he and his compatriots are soon made prisoners of war by German soldiers and sent to an East Prussian labor camp. While roaming around like a moron and frolicking with moose, Abel runs into a German officer named Chief Forester (Fassbinder superstar Gottfried John), who respects the Frenchman’s uncommon sensitivity towards wild beasts and hires him to take care of animals at National Socialist queen Hermann Göring’s luxurious hunting retreat. Naturally, Göring (Volker Spengler, who having gained more than a couple pounds since his Fassbinder years, makes for a splendidly grotesque caricature of Herr Göring) is nice when high on morphine and engages in ridiculous hedonistic behavior like immersing his hands in large bowels of diamonds and jewelry, eating deer turds, and hunting large game with his slavish comrades, but the radical Reichsmarschall loses it and must leave when things change for the worse on the Russian front for the Fatherland. Forced to go back to Berlin, Göring fires all of his employees, which leaves Abel without a job, but luckily Chief Forester hooks him up with a more prestigious position at a Hitler Youth military academy for boys located in the fairytale-like Kaltenborn Castle. Indeed, at this juncture in his life, Abel becomes closer and closer to living the dream of Michael Jackson.
Before he knows it, Abel proves himself to be an imperative player at the military academy as a sort of ‘Grand pimp at the Hitlerite House of Boys’ as a menacing and malicious man called “The Ogre” by local Prussian peasants due to his propensity for kidnapping little blond proletarian boys by force and bringing them back to Kaltenborn Castle, where they are forced to join the Hitler Youth and told by SS leaders that they no longer have parents and that Uncle Adolf is their new father. Of course, Abel’s self-described “secret affinity with children” is burdened when one of the peasant boys he snatches up is later horrifically burned in a military demonstration gone bad. Additionally, when Abel learns from the owner of the Kaltenborn castle, an aristocrat Count von Kaltenborn (Armin Mueller-Stahl) of royal ancestral (one of his ancestors apparently converted 10,000 Prussians to Christianity in a single day) who hates the National Socialists and is arrested for his alleged part in the failed 20 July Hitler assassination plot aka Operation Valkyrie that was carried out by Claus von Stauffenberg, that the Russians are coming and that all of his beloved Hitler Youth boy toys will be killed, Abel decides to take matters in his own hands. After finding a religious Jewish concentration camp survivor boy named Ephraim laying half-frozen and half-dead on the road, Abel absurdly brings him back to Kaltenborn castle and attempts to order the Hitler Youth boys to abandon the academy and head West to save their lives from Ruski revenge, but the young Aryans are far too indoctrinated with the National Socialist creed and one of older boys hits the frog freedom-fighter in the back of the head with a rifle, thus knocking him out and putting an end to his would-be-virtuous plan. Instead, Abel decides to strangle to death a Hitler Youth boy who has discovered his saintly Semite boy. In the end, all the Hitler Youth boys, who fought valiantly against the Bolshevik beasts, are left dead and Abel escapes from Kaltenborn castle, which is ultimately burned down, with Ephraim sitting on his shoulders while reciting aesthetically repellant Yiddish prayers. Although Abel proudly and seemingly perversely admits during The Ogre that “I love nothing like I love young boys,” through direct and indirect actions, he is ultimately responsible for leading to the deaths of countless young lads.
While The Ogre is ultimately a meticulously tailored piece of pomo fairytale propaganda, the film does make an important, if not blatant, point when the character of Count von Kaltenborn declares, “This whole beautiful country, to which we have given our souls, is utterly doomed. It's going to be wiped out of human memory. Our entire heritage, even our name, our ancestors' names, wiped out, all wiped out!,” as the Second World War not only destroyed Germany both physically and culturally, but the rest of Europe as well, hence why such a patently pussified and exceedingly ethno-masochistic propaganda piece like Schlöndorff’s film could and would get made in the first place. A sort of senselessly sentimental and culturally mongrelized anti-Heimatfilm that would probably most appeal to leftist pederasts (Schlöndorff intentionally portrays the Hitler Youth in a homoerotic pseudo-Riefenstahl-esque nature as they ‘work out’) and cultural critics at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, The Ogre ultimately has the deplorable and dubious message of: “yeah, so a bunch of kraut kids died, but they deserved it and the most important thing is that a single Jewish life was saved.” In fact, The Ogre goes so far as hinting the German soul itself in its purest form is innately evil in a scene where an SS doctor/eugenicist named Professor Blättchen (played by Dieter Laser of The Human Centipede (2009) fame) makes the remark, “brightness is not a characteristic of the German race. We don't want brightness! People say, "Oh, so-and-so is so bright, he has such a clear mind!" No. We mistrust this brightness, this clarity. Let the new African races cultivate brightness. Our sources are in darkness. That is what drives us to unparalleled creativity,” referencing Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche as examples of said dark Teutonic genius. Of course, something leads me to suspect that director Volker Schlöndorff would prefer belonging to the kosher school of cosmopolitan brightness.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 7:28 PM
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