Feb 20, 2014

San Domingo

Not unlike Herr Heimat Edgar Reitz with Mahlzeiten (1967) aka Lust For Love and Rainer Werner Fassbinder with Love Is Colder Than Death (1969), among countless other auteur filmmakers of German New Cinema, Prussian conservative auteur Hans-Jürgen Syberberg (Karl May, Parsifal) demonstrated with his second feature San Domingo (1970)—a modernist (anti)counter-culture update of German Romantic poet Heinrich von Kleist’s novella Betrothal in St. Domingo aka (1811) Die Verlobung in Santo Domingo—that he was still in his formative years as a film director and was heavily inspired by the films of French New Wave, as well as various neorealist works. Indeed, Syberberg did not really become Syberberg until after discovering the high-camp kitsch epics of queer kraut dandy Werner Schroeter (Eika Katappa, Salome), digging into his nation's past and myths, and releasing the first film in his ‘Germany Trilogy’, Ludwig: Requiem for a Virgin King (1972) aka Ludwig - Requiem für einen jungfräulichen König, yet San Domingo reveals that the auteur had already formed a subversive anti-leftist/anti-counter-culture Weltanschauung and had an affinity for the documentary form that he would never abandon, even utilizing such elements in his monolithic magnum opus Hitler, ein Film aus Deutschland (1977) aka Hitler: A Film from Germany. Based on a then-controversial work by von Kleist about an interracial relationship between a white man and black woman set during the Haitian Revolution of 1804 when, to quote the novelist, “the natives were murdering the white men” (pg. 71), San Domingo depicts an exceedingly disillusioned, ethno-masochistic, and spiritually patricidal Fatherland where young adults of all stripes want to overthrow the government, recreation drug use is rampant, young girls are willing to bare it all for porn films for just a couple bucks, and stupid hippie hairdos are the norm. Centering on a sort of hopelessly naïve Aryan Christ from a wealthy family who becomes the perfect pawn of a socially ostracized Viennese mulatto and her cracker commune comrades that want to steal the blond Bobo’s money, San Domingo depicts how the counter-culture movement was so proficient at destroying the minds and lives of normal people from well bred families. A black-and-white psychedelic micro-epic of the anti-anti-Heimat variety that acts a sort of kraut equivalent to Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider (1969) and Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) featuring a highly complimentary award-winning score by krautrock founders Amon Düül II, San Domingo demonstrates like no other film that Marlon Brando's performance in The Wild One (1951) had a decidedly devastating influence on West German youth. 

 A true believer in the absurd myth of the ‘noble savage,’ hippie philistine nobleman Michael König (played by Michael König, who would go on to play the hippie lead in the two early Fassbinder flicks, The Niklashausen Journey (1970) and Rio das Mortes (1971)) emerges from the wild jungles of West Germany after fleeing his posh parents' nice big home with virtually nothing to his name, hitches a ride from a taxi that he does not have enough money to pay for, and ends up at a Munich-based rocker commune inhabited by hash heads and other discernibly unclean untermensch rabble. Upon learning that Michael is rich, the scheming anti-social rockers, who cannot bother to work nor earn money in any even remotely honest way, come up with the bright bohemian idea to have one of their whores, a mulatto named Alice (Alice Ottawa), pretend to fall in love with the rich boy and then send a later to his parents claiming that he has been kidnapped demanding a ransom. Somewhat reluctantly, Alice agrees after being offered $10 grand of the ransom money. A proud negrophile who states, “It must be beautiful there…Jungle…Desert…It’s warm… and wild animals. The people…I’d imagine they are way nicer. San Domingo,” yet not realizing that San Domingo is the former name of Haiti where the black population exterminated the entire white population, Michael finds himself instantly infatuated with Alice and follows her during her various failed job attempts around Munich. When attempting to get a modeling job, Alice is denied because of her un-Aryan persuasion and told that the “white majority, average Joes” do not fancy negroes because “they haven’t realized yet that black is beautiful.” When Michael finally gathers the courage to ask Alice about her ancestry, she unsentimentally states, “My father was a real black-blooded mother-fucking nigger and I’m his daughter. My mother was a nanny. She was a junkie and sold me to a circus when I was five. My grandmother got me out there… My mother died when she was 30. Speaking of…my grandfather was an aristocrat. A knight. I have blue blood in me,” thus demonstrating the degeneration of Teutonic blood in the post-WWII/post-empire age. On top of revealing that her American Negro father has the humorous name of ‘James Mason’ and lives in Virginia, Alice discusses how she was married to a pimp who tried to whore her out and beat her up (she has seven large scars across her body), but she later joined a Brazilian ballet company whose members would later beat her husband up and he never bothered her again. 

Failing to find work, Alice barely says yes to playing a token Negro in a porn flick directed by an arrogant degenerate named Sigi (played by Sigi Graue, who starred in Volker Schlöndorff's adaptation of Baal (1970) starring Fassbinder) and ends up being reduced to tears after starring in a sleazy scene where she shows off her pussy while playing with a couple pussycats. Meanwhile, the members of the rocker group get in a verbal ‘gang fight’ with a rival group of communist student activists called the ‘Red Cells,’ which results in a pansy fight between a member from each group. While the leader of the Red Cell group pompously states, “We’ve proven that we’re not just talking. At the university we stopped the professors from teaching their crap. We actually did it…we obstructed the system a bit” as proof of superiority to their slightly more barbaric contemporaries, the leftist intellectuals are just as deluded as the uneducated rockers in their unhinged utopian dreams and their senseless desire to destroy West Germany. Undoubtedly, the most debauched yet laidback member of the rockers is a fellow named Schorschi, who absurdly confesses to Alice and Micheal, “I declared myself a German poet because I think they deserve it again. Germany either gets World Wars or Poets, so I gave them a Poet. I intend to revolutionize the film business. I want to shoot a German comedy.” Meanwhile, Michael’s wealthy yet feeble and emotionally vacant aristocratic parents (with the mother being played by Werner Schroeter superstar Carla Egerer, who is around the same age as lead Michael König) are getting all moody and broody at their mansion after agreeing to pay the ransom money, with the father declaring, “Disgusting. There are terrible people in this world.” Ultimately, the terrible people get their money, but the problem is that Alice ends up falling in love with Michael. When the Rockers reveal to Michael that they used him for his money and that they want nothing to do with him, he flips out and stabs Alice to death. While sitting beside her lifeless corpse, Michael is approached by one of the more sophisticated rockers, Hasi (Wolfgang Haas), who states, “It was serious. She never loved someone like you before. Stupid boy.” Seconds after learning of his mistake, Michael decides to commit Seppuku and drives the same knife he killed with Alice into his lovelorn hippie heart. Ultimately, San Domingo closes with the rockers driving away on their motorcycles and the following quotes from serial rapist/early Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver: “We shall have our manhood. We shall have it or the earth will be leveled by our attempts to gain it.” 

 Naturally, since San Domingo was probably the only film of its time to be unwaveringly critical of the counter-culture movement and leftwing utopianism in general, the work was venomously attacked by German critics, thus inspiring Syberberg to give up on contemporary events (or as he stated himself, “After this film [San Domingo] there remained only the possibility of a radical new beginning”) and instead immersed himself in his Fatherland’s dark and mystical past, which was ultimately for the better as he sired his masterful and totally singular ‘German Trilogy’ (Ludwig: Requiem for a Virgin King, Karl May, Hitler: A Film from Germany). Despite its failure to appeal to culturally cuckolded film critics, San Domingo did manage to snag the 1971 Deutscher Filmpreis for ‘Best Cinematography’ and ‘Best Music.’ While not up to par with Syberberg’s subsequent heterosexual ‘high-camp’ Gesamtkunstwerk films, San Domingo is important simply because it provides a voice of sanity at a time when Germany had been seduced by neo-bolshevik baloney, cultural retardation, philo-Semitism, feminism, infantile utopian ideals, and a will towards destruction for destruction’s sake. Cleverly utilizing kraut commie Bertolt Brecht’s technique of knocking down the fourth wall against the left, San Domingo, which mainly featured non-actors ‘playing themselves’ (aka hippie degenerates acting like hippie degenerates), goes so far as featuring lead Michael König going completely out of character and stating directly to the audience as himself: “People, listen up. I need to tell you something. In this movie I play a part. The others don’t, but I do. I was paid for it. The thing is this. The guy I’m playing has a consciousness that’s not mine. It’s like that: The people smoke, take drugs. I’ve done that too, ‘til about half a year ago. I was able to make use of it in a specific way. It gave me revolutionary impulses. Through LSD, for example, I’ve realized the possibilities of mankind. That there is matter, something we know nothing about. And this matter, you know refers to the future…to something we could experience…to a change, to something great, awesome, and different.” Indeed, not unlike self-described ‘conservative’ auteur Paul Morrissey’s films with Warhol, Syberberg wasted no effort in assembling the most miserable and unwitting motley crew of deluded debauchees he could find for San Domingo, as if they had no idea they were starring in a film that was meant to mock their very existence and wayward way of life. With mindless morons who spout gibberish slogans like “destroy that which destroys you,” “Capitalism needs to be destroyed by any means necessary. There are no bad means, everything is valid to destroy capitalism,” and “Crazy! The most beautiful word,” San Domingo is best looked at today as a quirky ‘New Right’ comedy created by a true cinematic great during his formative years. Indeed, as a film that invokes the conveniently forgotten genocide of whites (i.e. French frogs) by savage negroes with its very title, not to mention its inclusion of sleazy communist pornographers (with Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg posters adorning their walls), a mischling noble-negro leading lady, and dumb ass drugged-out kraut rockers, San Domingo is a Teutonic tragicomedy with Prussian teeth that sinks deep into the fat of urban counter-culture Bavaria. 

 -Ty E

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