Feb 2, 2014

Knife in the Head




Like kraut Francophile Volker Schlöndorff (A Degree of Murder, The Tin Drum), Teutonic filmmaker Reinhard Hauff (Mathias Kneissl, The Brutalisation of Franz Blum) was a stereotypical left-winger of his age of the innately idealistic sort, so it should be no surprise that probably his greatest achievement as a film director was winning the Golden Bear award at the 36th Berlin International Film Festival in 1986 for his Stammheim - Die Baader-Meinhof-Gruppe vor Gericht (1986) aka Stammheim - The Baader-Meinhof Gang On Trial, a work that acts as a quasi-tribute to the mad Marxist terrorist martyrs of the Red Army Faction and portrays the judges and attorneys as nasty crypto-nazis who are bound to sire a Fourth Reich. While Hauff has never been a particularly well known filmmaker in the United States, his melodramatic celluloid polemic Messer im Kopf (1978) aka Knife in the Head, which was penned by Peter Schneider (Hauff's Der Mann auf der Mauer (1982) aka The Man on the Wall, Margarethe von Trotta's Das Versprechen (1995) aka The Promise), is probably his most well known film among the American arthouse crowd simply due to the fact that it is the only one of the filmmaker’s films that has been released here (New Yorker Video released a VHS of the film in 1998). If it were not for the fact that Swiss leading man Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire, Der Untergang aka Downfall) gave such a ‘daring’ performance in the film that it is worthy of being compared to his role in Wim Wenders' neo-noir The American Friend (1977), it would be hard for me to recommend anything about Knife in the Head, which not unlike Schlöndorff and von Trotta’s banal Heinrich Böll adaptation The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, or: how violence develops and where it can lead (1975), is not much more than a less than thinly veiled far-leftist rant in solidarity with the RAF and against the West German government and media. And, indeed, like The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, Knife in the Head also stars masculine leftist pseudo-diva and filmic feminist Angela Winkler (Hunting Scenes from Bavaria, Germany in Autumn) as a bitchy broad who has rather poor taste in both men and politics and goes so far as callously cuckolding her crippled husband. In other words, Rauff is essentially a ‘poor man’s Schlöndorff’ who never achieved the sort of international ‘fame and fortune’ that his cinematic compatriot did, so it should be no surprise that most of the filmmaker's films have fallen into obscurity. A film about a brainy biogeneticist who gets shot in the brain after a scared kraut cop mistakes him for a terrorist that stabbed him in the stomach, Knife in the Head is a decidedly depressing yet redundantly left-leaning story about a man who is essentially turned into an infant as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and must relearn everything (i.e. walking and talking) and deal with harassment from cops who want to make him a scapegoat so as to hide their own incompetence. 



 Scientist Dr. Berthold Hoffmann (Bruno Ganz) has an annoying bourgeois Marxist ‘true believer’ wife named Ann (Angela Winkler) and when he goes to pick up his wife at a leftist terrorist political rally that is raided by neo-Gestapo-like police, he is mistaken for a lefty lunatic by a young cop named Schurig (Udo Samel), who was stabbed in the stomach by another terrorist, so he ends up getting shot in the head and losing all the data in his brilliant mind and is thus confined to a hospital bed for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, wife Ann is carrying on an affair with a pansy commie named Volker (Heinz Hoenig), not to mention the fact that a prick of a policeman wants Herr Hoffmann transferred to a prison hospital, but luckily a caring doctor named Dr. Groeske (Eike Gallwitz) blocks the cop's rather absurd request. Slowly but surely, Hoffmann becomes mobile, learns a couple words, begins feeding himself, and learns to dupe the cops. In one rather repellant scene, Hoffmann, who is wheelchair-bound, is mildly manhandled by a cop and becomes disrobed as a result, so he begins playing with his prick in front of the prick policeman so as to assumedly psyche the cop out. Rather distastefully but humorously, Hoffmann also uses his disabilities as a means to get a young nurse named Angelika (played by Werner Schroeter regular Carla Egerer) to feel sorry for him and ultimately shows\ him her tiny tits. Eventually, Hoffmann gets the gall and upward mobility to escape from the hospital after going incognito in doctor scrubs. Despite being only vaguely articulate and being imprisoned in a spastic body, Hoffmann attempts to go back to work at the ‘Traut Institute for Genetics," but one of his co-employees notices his brain is not quite right and calls his wife, who picks him up and takes him to the country where the two feebly attempt to rekindle their rather broken relationship. When night comes, a couple cops attempt to arrest Hoffmann for fleeing the hospital, but luckily the brain-damaged biogeneticist’s lawyer Anleitner (Hans Christian Blech) has solved all his legal problems already. When Hoffmann finally gets out of the hospital, he is welcomed home with cuckoldry due the fact that his wife’s terrorist boyfriend Volker is now squatting there. When Hoffmann ask Volker where his knife is, the commie replies “Here. In your head” (hence, the title of the film!).  Extremely irked by Volker’s venomous arrogance, Hoffmann finds his trusty knife and approaches his nemesis in a threatening manner, stating, “I’m gonna stab you fucker…You’d like it best if I were dead.” Of course, Angela kicks Hoffmann out of his own apartment a second later, but luckily terrorist Volker is later apprehended by the cops. In the end in what is easily the most potent scene of Knife in the Head, Hoffmann goes to the flat of the cop Schurig who shot him and asks the man why he shot him. Schurig tells Hoffmann he is “playing the idiot” and the latter responds with “maybe you were scared just scared. Like me” regarding the incident that left the biogeneticist a cripple. After that, the two men reenact the event that transpired the night Hoffmann was shot, albeit switching roles. Ultimately, Hoffmann gets some piece of mind by threatening to shoot him, smacking him over the head, and making him cry.  Of course, his actions are in vain as they will not help him get his wife and job back.




 In one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes of Knife in the Head, one hears a cop read a diary entry written by Hoffmann that states as follows: “The thought of killing yourself is undoubtedly only the reversal of the wish to kill. An American in my situation would probably just shoot blindly out of the window.” Indeed, judging by the series of mass-shooting sprees that have occurred in the good ol’ United States of America over the past decade or so, Hoffmann’s words seem to ring truer today than when Knife in the Head was released well over three decades ago, but that does not change the fact that the film is plagued with carelessly cliche leftist inanities. Of course, considering the reality of innately impotent and ultimately government-strengthening terrorist attacks committed by German terrorists groups like the RAF in West Germany during the 1970s, it seems quite hypocritical for a refined agitpropagandist like Reinhard Hauff to make such claims against America. Indeed, aside from Prussian master Hans-Jürgen Syberberg (Ludwig: Requiem for a Virgin King, Hitler: A Film from Germany), Fassbinder seemed to be the only filmmaker of his generation mature enough to see the moronic antics of the RAF for what they were. On top of demonstrating that all idealistic revolutions are bound to fail in The Niklashausen Journey (1970) and depicting communist intellectuals as hypocrites who are oftentimes members of the bourgeoisie themselves (albeit, failed members of the bourgeois like Marx himself) in Mother Küsters' Trip to Heaven (1975), Fassbinder acknowledged with his scathing satire The Third Generation (1979) that the terrorists merely empowered not only the German government, but big evil corporations as well. Indeed, despite its anti-authority/anti-cop/anti-media message, Knife in the Head is clearly a work that was made for the bourgeois, but of course, like director Reinhard Hauff (who began as a subversive filmmaker but became a somewhat mainstream filmmaker), the same people who were part of the late-1960s German student movement (68er-Bewegung) would later become the leaders, politicians, CEOs, and mainstream media pawns of the ostensibly corrupt nation they professed to despise as depicted in the soullessly stylized mainstream German flick The Edukators (2004) starring swarthy Yerd-Teuton mutt Daniel Brühl. A rather simple yet well acted film about a man who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time, Knife in the Head ultimately attempts to get the mainstream middle-class to give a shit about the concerns of the far-left and it ultimately fails as a work the merely preaches to the kraut quasi-commie choir. Of course, if the viewer approaches the film by looking at protagonist Hoffmann’s crippling as a metaphor for not only the helplessness of everyday Germans during the RAF terrorist attacks but also as an allegory for the destruction of German identity/kultur as a result of the Second World War (think Roberto Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero (1948)), Knife in the Head ultimately becomes a more poignant and less preachy work. Of course, Knife in the Head is also a must-see film for Bruno Ganz fans. 



-Ty E

12 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Shades of "Regarding Henry" with Harri-daughter Ford.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Angela Winkler ! ?, i wonder if shes related to Henry ?, and if so, did she ever get to meet Heather on the set of "Happy Days" while watching her brother playing The Fonz ?.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I like the picture of the bird showing her tits, that birds tits are sweeeeet.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

The geezer that hes pointing the gun at looks like a bloody queer.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ganz appeared in this just a year before he made Nosferatu for Herzog, thats a much better film than "Knife in the Head".

jervaise brooke hamster said...

The ONLY thing i respect about Sylvester Stallone is his rampaging heterosexuality, but, just for the fun of it, and admittedly because the title is similar, why not do a reveiw of "Bullet to the Head" ! ?.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I know the ageing process grinds us all down in the end, but you have to admit that Bruno Ganz does look very different now from what he did 35 years ago, almost like a totally different per-daughter.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I like the picture where hes going down on the bird, that birds left thigh is stunning.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

What about Polanski's "Knife in the Water" ! ?, a gorgeous bird shows her bum in that ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

On the DVD cover he looks as though hes trying to do an imper-daughter-ation of Dirty Harry, the bloody silly sod.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Yeah, Bruno Ganz is a great actor, but the best thing about him is his heterosexuality.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

At least Philip Seymour Hoff-girl was heterosexual, thats all that really matters ! ! !.