Mar 30, 2014
In contemporary Germany, it seems there are two types of filmmakers: Those culturally retarded and deracinated dilettantes that merely copy off of Hollywood and become money-grubbing artisan hacks like Tom Tykwer, and the oh-so few filmmakers who attempt to revive the auteurism of German New Cinema. Undoubtedly, Oskar Roehler (Suck My Dick, Jew Suss: Rise and Fall) is (or was) part of the second category as a filmmaker who was inspired by Rainer Werner Fassbinder's The Merchant of Four Seasons (1972) and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) at a young age, once stating regarding these films, “I was about 12 or 13, and after seeing those films, I would just walk through the park and think about them.” While I have not seen every single one of the director’s films (most of them do not have English subtitles), I think Agnes and His Brothers (2004) aka Agnes und seine Brüder is Roehler’s greatest and most ambitious work to date, though it is certainly no masterpiece. Unquestionably a not so inconspicuous take on Fassbinder’s avant-garde masterpiece In a Year of 13 Moons (1978), Agnes and His Brothers also centers around a melancholy tranny who did the unthinkable and cuts his penis off to appease a powerful and less than loving lover (this time instead of using a Jewish slumlord like in Fassbinder’s film, Roehler opted for an American Negro fashion designer). In fact, In A Year of 13 Moons star Volker Spengler was originally supposed to play the father of the lead character(s). Of course, Roehler’s film is not a remake of In a Year of 13 Moons and is quite different in parts, namely in that it also focuses on the equally screwed up lives of the eponymous tranny’s two elder brothers. Additionally, Agnes and His Brothers displays its Hollywood influences due to its unwavering sentimentalism, use of played out pop rock music, and copout (semi)happy ending. The German answer to American Beauty (1999), albeit all the more morbid and scatological in its critique of the bourgeois, Agnes and His Brothers depicts a universally sexually debauched upper-middleclass where hatred, sexual perversion, and unhappiness are givens and where fathers are even more patently perverted than Woody Allen. Unquestionably, one of the most interesting and surprising aspects of Agnes and His Brothers is that is depicts the emotionally and sexually ruined middle-aged children of the counter-culture era, thus making a rare film that dares to laugh at the tragic, if not inevitable, results of far-leftist parents who refused to parent and thus sired individuals that are so screwed up that they have scat fetishes and have paid money to have their genitals chopped off. Stating his intent with the film as follows, “What interested me most was to show what things look like now in this country. I wanted to convey a mood, a basic feeling with a number of facets that can't be pinned down solely to one single relationship between two people,” auteur Roehler ultimately assembled a black post-counter-culture comedy nightmare with Agnes and His Brothers that offers good enough reason as to why the indigenous population of Germany is committing demographic suicide and how Teutonic auteur cinema itself is merely a platform for members of the bourgeois to bash themselves.
Agnes Tschirner (Martin Weiß) is a depressed tranny who never knew nor has even seen a picture of his/her mother, a purported a member of the Baader-Meinhof Gang who apparently took a fire extinguisher to the head while in Stammheim prison and allegedly later committed suicide after becoming penniless. The only thing Agnes knows about his/her long deceased mother is what was told to her by her burnout degenerate hippie father Günther (Vadim Glowna) while he was inebriated. Agnes has two brothers that are just as screwed up as her, if not more so, including Hans-Jörg (Moritz Bleibtreu) and Werner (Herbert Knaup), but neither of them have done anything so drastic as have their dicks chopped off. Hans-Jörg is a sex-addicted librarian and pathetic peeping tom who sneaks into female bathroom stalls at his work and masturbates while watching women defecate via a gloryhole. When it comes to women, Hans-Jörg is a pathetic joke who is constantly laughed at by the fairer sex, so he spends much of his free time attending sex addict anonymous meetings where he listens to people's stories about having love affairs with their dogs and whatnot. Undoubtedly, Werner, who is married and has two teenage sons, is the most strong and successful of the Tschirner brothers, but he is no less screwed up and his relative success seems compensate for his broken family life. Married to a blonde cougar named Signe (Katja Riemann) that no longer loves him and the father of an ambiguously gay amateur filmmaker son named Ralf (Tom Schilling) who his wife dedicates all his attention to, Werner has devoted himself to his career as a Herr Doktor and leader of the Green Party. Undoubtedly, the source of the Tschirner brothers' pathologies lies with their rich but seemingly half-retarded father Günther, who Hans-Jörg believes molested little brother Agnes. As indicated by a melancholy man named Heinz (Ralph Ferforth) that cries at the sight of the Tschirner brothers and slavishly does house work at the lapsed braindead hippie’s house, Günther is also probably gay, thus hinting that he may have in fact molested the son, or at the very least resented his children.
When Agnes is called “the scum of the earth” and kicked out of her apartment by her asshole workaholic boyfriend Rudi (Oliver Korittke), s/he moves in with her old and lonely fag hag friend Roxy (played by Fassbinder superstar Margit Carstensen) and soon learns from a receptionist at a hospital that there is something very wrong with her lab results, but s/he is too afraid to stay to talk with the doctor and find out exactly what the problem is. Meanwhile, Hans-Jörg, who has just been rebuffed by a chick he screwed who played him like a true cuckold pawn and talked him into painting her apartment, goes by his father’s homestead and mistakenly believes he sees his brother Agnes giving papa Günther blowjob. As for Werner, his son filmed him defecating on his piece of paper in his home office and his wife thinks it is quite hilarious. In terms of their dead sex life, wife Signe complains to her scat-fiend spouse, “Where is the casual relationship between your earnings and your toilet behavior? How can you even assume that I’d feel the ghost of eroticism, if I have to witness, if I have to witness you pressing out your secretions everyday?,” not to mention the fact she believes that her hubby is a schizophrenic. Eventually, Werner loses his cool and decides to destroy his wife’s bushes and son Ralf’s pot plants with a chainsaw. Needless to say, Signe leaves Werner and brings their sons with her. Meanwhile, Agnes learns that her great love Henry Preminger (played by Lee Daniels, the producer of Monster’s Ball (2001) and director of Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire (2009))—a famous gay American Negro fashion designer—is coming to town. After revisiting his ex-wife and children (!), Agnes borrows his dead mother’s wedding dress for his reunion with Henry. As the viewer discovers, Agnes cut off her cock for Henry, but this only repelled him. When Agnes runs into his ex-love and his entourage on the red carpet of a show, Henry pretends not to remember him, but agrees to come by his apartment for ‘German coffee’ after finally vaguely pretending to remember the tragic tranny. While Henry eventually reveals his undying life for Agnes when they are alone together, it is revealed that he cared more about his career than his relationship, hence why their relationship ultimately dissolved. Although Henry achieved the fame and fortune he always dreamed of, he more or less confesses he is unhappy to Agnes. Meanwhile, Hans-Jörg blows his father Günther’s brains away with a shotgun and proceeds to star in a porn flick after being offered the job from a dude named Manni Moneto (Martin Semmelrogge) from his sex addicts anonymous group. To his shock, H.J. falls in love with a porn star named Desiree (Suzan Anbeh), who consoles him after he has a freakout while filming a porn scene. Luckily for Werner, his son Ralf runs away, so Signe comes back home for his support. In the end, Agnes dies of the dubious illness (in one scene, blood seeps from her crotch, thus hinting its related to his/her sex change) she refused to ask the doctor about while remembering a rare happy moment when she was a little boy, patricidal fugitive Hans-Jörg heads eastward with his new lover Desiree, and Signe gets his wife back.
A Hollywood molested take on Fassbinder’s masterpiece In A Year of 13 Moons made for a socially dysfunctional, degenerate generation of Germans reared on MTV and Adam Sandler flicks and post-cultural liberal capitalism, Agnes and His Brothers has about as much aesthetic value as a car commercial, yet its scathing scat humor and callous critique of the post-Baader-Meinhof bourgeois ultimately makes it one of the most interesting and, dare I say, greatest Teutonic films of its zeitgeist. Featuring an ironic use of pop rock songs like “Happy Together” by The Turtles, Agnes and His Brothers, not unlike more recent Martin Scorsese flicks like Goodfellas (1990) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), is afraid to rise above the tragicomic despite its rather somber subject matter, as if the incapacity to mourn as has only grown worse in Germany since the end of the Second World War. To auteur Oskar Roehler’s credit, his intent was not to make Agnes and His Brothers too Bergman-esque in tone so as to appeal to Hollywood-lobotomized philistines, or as the director stated himself in an interview, “I didn't want to take the whole thing too seriously, however; I wanted to make it rather light and playful, so that it would be fun to watch. I used to be all too quick in making moralistic points, but unfortunately I always noticed this too late.” Roehler would follow up the film with the similarly themed but somewhat inferior work The Elementary Particles (2006) aka Atomised based on the French novel Les Particules élémentaires (1998) by Michel Houellebecq, but his work has only become all the more mainstream and, in turn, superficial, as time has passed. Like a Teutonic equivalent to what Todd Solondz has accomplished in terms of sardonically satirizing the culturally and sexually confused American Hebrews of New Jersey suburbia, Agnes and His Brothers is a patently pessimistic piece of hysterically humorous celluloid psychotherapy created in an age when the only thing one can do in the face of overwhelming social dysfunction is laugh it off. A postmodern mutation of Oedipus Rex set in German suburbia made in a time where a kosher culture-distorter like Sigmund Freud and his Frankfurt School disciples' ideas have defiled every aspect of bourgeois life (indeed, if the Hebraic psychoanalysts had any goal, it was that) and where neo-vaudevillian humor has even taken over a traditionally humorless nation like Germany, Agnes and His Brothers is ultimately an unhinged reminder where American (non)kultur has probably had a more deleterious effect on Germany than firebombs did in WWII. Undoubtedly, Roehler is no Fassbinder and not even a Schlingensief, but there is more truth in 5 minutes of Agnes and His Brothers than all the films of a deracinated Teutonic hack like Tom Tykwer combined.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 9:48 PM
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