Dec 11, 2013

I Love You, I Kill You




In describing the pseudo-sci-fi dystopian anti-Heimat film I Love You, I Kill You (1971) aka Ich liebe dich, ich töte dich directed by unfortunately forgotten German New Cinema auteur Uwe Brandner (Blinker, 50/50 aka Halbe-Halbe), Austrian-born Jewish-American cineaste Amos Vogel wrote in his magnum opus Film as a Subversive Art (1974), “Through stylized acting, mysterious silences, disrupted sentences and frozen action, an atmosphere of alienation and stagnation permeates what the director ironically calls "a picture-book story of our Vaterland -- a vicious satire of the sentimental German "Heimat" films of the past.” Personally, I think Vogel is at least half-wrong and merely spurred by his hatred of Teutons and the fact he was forced to flee Austria as a teenager due to Uncle Adolf’s Anschluß in 1938, as I Love You, I Kill You is less a satire than a conspicuously culturally pessimistic depiction of the Fatherland’s deluge as a result of the Second World War as directed by a filmmaker who, like so many of his generation, was kicked out his hometown (Brandner was born on May 23, 1941 in Reichenberg, Sudetenland, Germany, which was later turned into Liberec, Czech Republic after Stalin expelled all the Germans) at a young age and forced to accept Americanized West Germany as his new home. Ironically, the Heimatfilm (“homeland-film”) genre—a sentimentalist film style that was popular from the late-1940s to early-1970s that promoted healthy rural living, family, clean morality, and traditionalism—was largely made for the 12 million Germans (known as “Vertriebene”), like director Brandner’s family, who were kicked out of their homes located in former eastern territories of the Third Reich and were longing for a sense of kinship and community in their new adopted hometowns in the West. With I Love You, I Kill You, I felt little, if any, sense of satire and more of an apocalyptic depiction of a ‘fascistic’ village imploding from within, as if director Brander was attempting to create a post-Nazi Heimat flick that allegorically depicts the fall of the Sudetenland as a result of National Socialism tendencies, but strategically disguising the work as counter-culture-themed anti-Heimat flick so as to appeal to cinematic trends of that time. The völkisch yet simultaneously anti-völkisch tale of an effeminate teacher who comes to a small rural village to teach and who starts a homoerotic romantic relationship with a masculine hunter, only to be betrayed by said hunter, I Love You, I Kill You was once described by Time Out magazine as a “L'Age d'Or for the valium generation” and “a rural version of Performance,” but such descriptions betray the film’s distinctly and innately Teutonic roots and thematic complexity. A sort of less reductionist-driven take on Peter Fleischmann’s ‘classic’ anti-Heimat flick Hunting Scenes from Bavaria (1969) aka Jagdszenen aus Niederbayern meets The Wicker Man (1973) and The Hamburg Syndrome (1979) aka Die Hamburger Krankheit, I Love You, I Kill You is a darkly romantic Heimat flick that falls somewhere in between rural kraut homo Heaven and Hell. 



 I Love You, I Kill You begins in an atmospheric Bavarian field where a fellow simply known as the ‘Hunter’ (Rolf Becker, the super Aryan blond father of popular Mischling Jewish actors Ben and Meret Becker) has just shot a man dead with his shotgun in a film somewhat sardonically described in its opening credits as “Eine Bildergeschichte aus der Heimat” (aka “a pictorial story from the homelands”). A handsome blond man with a beauteous blonde girlfriend that he enjoys making sweet love to in the scenic countryside, the Hunter’s world is ultimately turned upside down when a swarthy and effeminate Teacher (Hannes Fuchs, who only starred in two other films, Fassbinder’s Beware of a Holy Whore (1971) and Ulli Lommel and Peter Moland’s Haytabo - Falscher Verdacht (1971)) who looks sort of like a gay wop Jim Morrison comes to town to teach grade school children. Apparently, the Teacher has come to the town to replace the nameless/faceless dead man featured at the beginning of I Love You, I Kill You. As the film vaguely hints, the Hunter, whose job is to kill wild wolves and wolf dogs before they prey on wild game, is plagued by a vicious circle of sexual confusion where he befriends, falls in love, and ultimately kills each teacher that comes to town and only at the end of I Love You, I Kill You does he find a perverse form of redemption. Upon first seeing the Teacher, the Hunter whistles at him as if he were a hot chick with big tits and a voluptuous ass. Total opposites (the Hunter is masculine, fair-skinned, and blond, while the Teacher is rather effete, tan, and dark-haired), the Hunter and Teacher seem to compliment one another perfectly as if they are the gay yin-yang of the Bavarian countryside, but things take a turn for the worst when the former teaches the latter to hunt, thus disturbing the natural order of things in the curiously quaint community.  Indeed, only the Hunter is allowed to hunt and for whatever inexplicable reason, he teaches the Teacher—a ‘progressive’ man who has a complete and utter incapacity for following orders and obeying timeless laws—to hunt despite the fact that it is illegal for him to do so.  Ironically, it is not homo-sex but hunting that ultimately leads to the Teacher's annihilation.




 Ruled over rather ruthlessly by two half-crazed Gestapo-esque cops in fascistic black leather uniforms, the people of the village are kept in check in a Brave New World fashion by being force fed dubious prescription drugs in a manner that has become startlingly common in the contemporary Occident. When an old man who forgot to take his meds declares, “I’m going to kill all of you. I’m so full of anger!,” the police simply give him some drugs and he is back to ‘normal,’ even apologizing to the men in blue for his verbal transgressions. Unfortunately, many of the people in the town seem like retarded robots due to the drugs, as demonstrated by the fact two local men incessantly repeat, “How do you do?” in a seemingly passive-aggressive and somewhat Lynch-esque manner after bumping into the Teacher. While teaching the Teacher how to hunt, the Hunter demonstrates how brainwashed by the state he is by giving the following speech to his new friend: “The government loves our woods. And they show us their appreciation. That’s why we have to keep the wolves and wild dogs in line. We can’t use poison. The game would perish as well. And then, no more government help. And we wouldn’t know what to do.” In a rather prophetic scene, a town elder writes, “Maybe someday, we will run out of medicine. That will be the Last Judgment. We have obeyed the laws and need not fear any judge.” Of course, Judgment Day comes sooner than expected when the Teacher decides to disobey the rules and rebelliously hunts wild beasts on his own, thus ultimately turning the novice hunter into the hunted when his boyfriend finds out. Despite his steamy sodomite love affair with the Teacher, the Hunter decides to betray his lover and turns him over to the authorities where he is nonsensically machine-gunned down like a rabid dog. Despite betraying his lover in a manner that led to his death, the Hunter flips out and kills the two cops in cold blood immediately after they execute the Teacher, thus concluding I Love You, I Kill You in a rather explosive and anarchistic fashion that more than hints at a dubious future for not only the Hunter, but the entire village as well. Indeed, the Hunter may have finally found the ‘redemption’ he was looking for, but not before killing at least two of his boy toys and destroying order in the town in the process. 



Despite being one of the first films of German New Cinema to receive a commercial international release, I Love You, I Kill You is all but totally unknown today anywhere outside of the German-speaking world and has yet to be released in any home media format in the United States, thus succumbing to the same sad fate as a good portion of the masterpieces of the Teutonic New Wave. Interestingly, despite seeming like the work of a master, I Love You, I Kill You was the first feature directed by auteur Uwe Brandner, who was chiefly a science fiction writer (though he previously worked as a journalist and jazz musician), ever directed and it is nothing short of a shame that his filmmaking career essentially fizzled out before it ever really started. Concluding in a ‘redneck lynch mob’ fashion not unlike Hunting Scenes from Bavaria, I Love You, I Kill You ultimately iconoclastically breaks with anti-Heimat film convention (the films typically conclude with the loony lynch mob winning) during the final couple moments, thus ending with a rather revolutionary, if not nihilistic, message that begs the viewer to break with outmoded traditions before it is too late and you have killed you beloved sod soul-mate. Indeed, despite its cynical portrayal of the village, I Love You, I Kill You is, at least aesthetically speaking, one of the most poetic, atmospheric, and metaphysical ‘Heimat’ films I have ever seen as a sort of more coherent but no less mystifying take on what Werner Herzog would later try with Heart of Glass (1976) aka Herz aus Glas. Featuring ethereal country landscapes that are immaculately accented by the sounds of unseen wind chimes and totally silent village buildings and rooms that capture the foreboding calmness of the village, I Love You, I Kill You sincerely attempts to capture the distinct aura of rural Bavaria instead of simply maliciously parodying it like in Hunting Scenes from Bavaria. Interestingly, Thomas Elsaesser wrote in his landmark work New German Cinema: A History (1989) regarding I Love You, I Kill You that it is “a bold attempt to bring the existentialism of Kafka’s Castle to bear on the setting of the Heimat film. The very self-conscious and literary use of genre makes the film chiefly interesting for the way it introduces the figure of the Double, and with it a play on identification and otherness which may have influenced Fasssbinder in the conception of Despair (1978).”  Personally, as a full-fledged Fassbinder fanatic, I would rather re-watch Brandner's I Love You, I Kill You over Despair any day.



 Indeed, more the anything, I Love You, I Kill You seemed to me like a schizophrenic take on the Heimat film with a dichotomous love-hate relationship for the kraut country directed by a man who was uprooted from his Eastern hometown by force while just a little lad. While the character of the Hunter is a sort of symbol of tradition man (masculine, lawful, stoic, adventurous, etc.), the Teacher is a symbol of decadent modern man (effeminate, disorderly, unkempt, hysterical, etc.), so naturally when the two men unite it results in complete and utter catastrophe, thus I Love You, I Kill You expresses a sort of obvious counter-culture message that the ‘old Germany’ and ‘new Germany’ cannot live together peacefully and that the geographically butchered nation is destined for a cataclysmic future (which would soon arrive in the form of far-left terrorist groups like the Baader-Meinhof Group not long after the film was released). Indeed, I Love You, I Kill You might have an anti-authoritarian message, but it also has no real answers, thus (unwittingly) hinting that a Germany without traditional culture and tradition has no future at all, which the present-day German film industry pretty much confirms, at least culturally speaking. A rather reluctant parable about freedom against fascism, I Love You, I Kill You ultimately made me question what sort of film Uwe Brandner would have directed had Uncle Adolf won the war and had his family not been expelled from the Sudetenland, as the director’s ‘anti-Heimat’ flick may cast a critical eye on the kraut countryside, but it is also a work that longs for and worships the natural beauty of rural Teutonland. A contradictory love-hate depiction of a land where the ‘blood and soil’ has been despoiled by a completely catastrophic Second World War, I Love You, I Kill You is probably the most thematically complex and conflicted ‘anti-Heimat’ flick ever made, thus making it mandatory for anyone interested in the particular Teutonic zeitgeist when it was made.  Of course, in its dystopian depiction of a people that have to be ritualistically drugged so they do not run amok, I Love You, I Kill You, like any decent work of classic science fiction, will seem strikingly and frighteningly prophetic to American viewers.



-Ty E

7 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I like the picture of the geezer fondling the gorgeous birds left tit, what a stunning bird that is, pity shes still got her knickers on. If only the geezer had been wholly and completely heterosexual then he would`ve been a good bloke, but the fact that he was a half pansy makes him half scum-of-the-earth.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

1970 again, that classic year that seem to produce such a high number of odd and edgy cult movies.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I also really like the picture of the geezers killing the dirty pansy queer bastard, that picture is pure gold, its how ALL faggots should be killed, shot like the rabid dogs that they are. Because thats exactly what fairys are Ty E, rabid dogs and the worst kind of worthless filth, make no mistake about that my old mate.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, in your reveiw you said that the half pansy geezer shoots the two geezers after they shoot the fairy, that spoilt it for me, instead of congratulating them for ridding the world of another woofter he shoots the righteous (as it were). Firstly he should have felt really ashamed of himself for being a half poofter, and then he could`ve used the joyous and magical sight of the dirty queer bastard being slaughtered as inspiration for himself to become a 100% heterosexual, instead, like i said, he kills the geezers who were trying to be his saviour, that was odd, very odd.

the sayer of the truth said...

In 1970 the war had already been over for a quarter-of-a-century and Ger-girl-y (and Japan for that matter) had already become completely Americanised (thankfully), films like this one prove that (like you said, its even got its very own Jim Morri-daughter, albeit a pansy queer bastard one, unfortunately), it might be slightly more artistic than the average Hollywood movie but its still essentially an American product but produced in Ger-girl-y not America.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, the geographically butchered nation SHOULD INDEED be destined for a cataclysmic future especially when you consider what they got away with in the 1940`s, re-twater, the only country in the world that has caused more difficulties for everyone else over the last 1500 years is that loathsome and horrifying abomination known as England.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, you must accept that the world has been a much better and pleasant place under American domination over the last 68 years than it would have been under the literal horrors of Nazi or Japanese domination, the only negative we`ve really seen during that period is the truly loathsome and horrifying proliferation of hideous faggotry, thats something the world could`ve definitely done without.