Mar 1, 2014


While people tend to look at the Nazi era as the darkest chapter in 21st century German history, I personally see the late-1960s with the rise of the German student movement (aka ‘68er-Bewegung’), counter-culture types, and ultimately far-left terrorists to be the most decidedly despicable point in Teutonic history of the past century, even if it sired the most exciting film movement since the German expressionist period. Indeed, while National Socialism inevitably led's to Deutschland's complete and utter spiritual and physical ruin, thief and butchering of its land, annhilation of countless irreplaceable pieces of art and architecture, and the death of a good portion of the country’s populous, the counter-culture put the final nail in the coffin of German culture and resulted in what Nietzsche once described as a ‘Umwertung aller Werte’ (aka transvaluation of all values), albeit of a decidedly degenerate slave-morality-driven sort where worship of the untermensch (i.e. aberrosexuals, mostly Jewish communist revolutionaries, rock stars, third worlders, etc.) and weakness reigned and centuries of German kultur and tradition was disposed of without a second's thought due to its ostensible ‘fascist’ character, being replaced with xenophilia (aka ‘noble savage’ worship and fetishism), drug (pseudo)culture, anti-Occidental Frankfurt school twaddle and related commie theories, and polygamous communal living. Undoubtedly, one of the most central and important figures of the kraut counter-culture movement was perennial hippie Rainer Langhans, who was a founder of the (in)famous West Berlin commune ‘Kommune 1’ and who was known for his romantic relationship with German fashion model and bohemian sex symbol Uschi Obermaier, as the two were described as 'the most beautiful couple in Germany' (despite the fact that Langhans looks like a scrawnier and more Jew-y version of Weird Al Yankovic). Aside from being a popular hippie degenerate and all-around bullshit-ridden charlatan, Langhans was also a part-time actor who appeared in classic German New Cinema flicks like Haytabo (1971) co-directed by Ulli Lommel, World on a Wire (1973) directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and The Hamburg Syndrome (1979) directed by Peter Fleischmann, so it should be no surprise that he eventually tried his hand at directing, with his documentary Schneeweißrosenrot (1991) aka SnowwhiteRosered, which he co-directed with Christa Ritter, offering an insightful depiction of the decadent zeitgeist of which he was an iconoclastic icon. Centering around twin German gold-diggers Jutta and Gisela Schmidt (aka Jutta Winkelmann and Gisela Getty)—two commie counter-culture/proto-punk divas of the sexually androgynous and neo-Bolshevik sort who gained fame due to their association with degenerate oil heir/kidnap victim John Paul Getty III (who Gisela married, which spawned the actor Balthazar Getty) and their association with Langhans/Kommune 1—Schneeweißrosenrot ultimately depicts a self-absorbed late-1960s/early-1970s West Germany inhabited by narcotic-addled narcissists and delusional far-left dilettantes who reached for the sky in terms of their rather childish yet dangerously unhinged utopian dreams, only to get a rather rude awakening when they were smacked in the face with the reality of soul-destroying drug addiction, dysfunctional ‘unconventional’ families, and the high price of free love and so-called communal living. Featuring interviews with a number of great German New Cinema filmmakers that personally knew both Gisela and Jutta, including Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Alexander Kluge, and Adolf Winkelmann, as well as various famous American figures like Dennis Hopper, Leonard Cohen, Timothy Leary, and Sean Penn, Schneeweißrosenrot ultimately makes for a sometimes interesting and insightful celluloid artifact that, quite ironically (especially considering it was co-directed by all-mighty anti-bourgeois charlatan guru Langhans), deconstructs and tears apart the shallow and innately infantile idealism of the so-called ‘peace and love’ generation. In short, I found Schneeweißrosenrot to be a bittersweet piece of celluloid Schadenfreude in terms of its unflattering depiction of the fall of the West German fellaheen. 

Opening with a semi-surreal scene of tall corpse-like twin sisters Gisela and Jutta blowing away a cardboard cutout of Dennis Hopper sporting a cowboy hat and proceeding to beat one another in what seems like jealous incestuous hatred, Schneeweißrosenrot immediately lets the viewer know that the two subjects of the documentary are less than ladylike femme fatale rebels without a cause. The prodigal daughters of a seemingly highly decorated ex-Nazi Wehrmacht officer who was already in his 50s when they were born and thus had not much of his relationship with his little girls, Gisela-Martina and Jutta Schmidt, who were born and came of age in Kassel in Northern Hesse, were spawned in the year 1949 and, like many people of their generation, they rebelled against their ‘fascistic’ family and Fatherland, eventually becoming middle-class Leninists and members of the KPD (Communist Party of Germany). Since West Germany became “too serious and cold for them,” the twins headed to Rome after they both divorced their husbands on the same day and came to the exceedingly absurd conclusion that they were the “hottest women in the world” while living la dolce vita in the Mediterranean, where they became part of the entourage of famous Italian film figures like Federico Fellini and Carlo Ponti, among others. Eventually, the two meet ‘the golden hippie’ John Paul Getty III, who was kidnapped in the summer of 1973, with the kidnappers asking for a hefty ransom of $17 million, which the young man’s grandfather John Paul Getty Sr. declined. After all, it is suspected that John Getty, who needed to support a rather large drug habit, was in on his own kidnapping (apparently he would often joke about being kidnapped and the twins were even temporarily arrested due to their assumed complicity in the conspiracy), but when an envelop containing the golden hippie's severed ear and hair was delivered to a popular daily newspaper, cheap grandfather Getty Sr. decided to pay up, though he was only willing to put up $2.2 million as that is the largest amount that can be tax deductible and thus son John Paul Getty II (Getty III's father) is forced to pay back the rest of the ransom at 4% interest to his coldblooded blueblood father. Getty III was released in December 1973 shortly after the ransom was paid and, to the dismay of Jutta, he would marry Gisela in 1974 about 5 months after impregnating her with the seed that would later sire Hollywood actor Balthazar Getty. As their friends reveal in Schneeweißrosenrot, regarding the strikingly different yet complimentary characteristics of the twins, Gisela is a soft and easy going gal with dreamy ideas while her sis Jutta is a hard and aggressive dame who executes her sister’s ideas. Of course, Gisela was in for a big surprise when Getty’s grandpa decided to deny him his first trust fund payment of $2 million because he disproved of their marriage, so the two lived rather uncomfortably, especially for cocaine-snorting and heroin-shooting dipsomaniacs with rather expensive drug habits. In 1981, Getty III took an almost fatal cocktail of methadone, Valium, and alcohol that caused him to have a stroke and severe liver damage that would leave him a blind paraplegic paralyzed from the neck down and who would suffer greatly for the rest of his short pathetic life. Despite his lack of sexuality potency, Gisela, who frequented Kommune 1 and carried on an affair with a much younger live-in boyfriend that is ten years her junior, stayed with Getty III—a man described by one commentator in the documentary as a “monster…but a compassionate monster”—in the hope of fulfilling her lifelong dream and cashing in on the marriage, but her handicapped hubby had the audacity to divorce her in 1993 and she only got about $1 million (after lawyer expenses, who took about another $1 million for their inflated fees) out of the deal despite hoping to make sure Gisela and her sister Jutta are set for life. Indeed, Schneeweißrosenrot goes so far as even featuring Gisela crying about the fact that her “dreams didn’t come true” and ultimately wasting her life married to a cripple for nothing as her gold-digger scheme fell through, but I doubt anyone watching the documentary will feel even a smidge of sympathy for the lapsed counter-culture commie turned capitalist whore.

In terms of their relation to German New Cinema, Werner Herzog makes the claim in Schneeweißrosenrot that Gisela and Jutta won the “Grand Prize of Oberhausen” (a reference to the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen) with their short Heinrich Viel (1969), but their directing careers pretty much ended there, though Gisela would direct the documentary Tim Leary: The Art of Dying (2008) nearly four decades later. Additionally, Jutta would star in the lead female role of the Alexander Kluge flick In Gefahr und größter Not bringt der Mittelweg den Tod (1974) aka In Danger and Dire Distress the Middle of the Road Leads to Death and would appear in a couple small roles in marginal West German movies and TV shows, including the crime-comedy Peng! Du bist tot! (1987) directed by her ex-husband Adolf Winkelmann. Gisela was less active in film, though she would appear in a small role in the Wim Wenders' flick The State of Things (1982) aka Der Stand der Dinge. Quite hilariously but not surprisingly, Jutta’s ex-hubby Winkelmann totally discredits the twins’ involvement in filmmaking as nothing more than a novelty, stating, “We, the men, were the real doers, the thinkers, made everything possible – the girls were just there as decoration, to help us, do stuff – I think that’s how we saw it.” While Herzog commits a bit of puffery in regard to the historical importance of the twins in regard to New German Cinema, he certainly questions their values and morals (or lack thereof), remarking regarding when he knew them in the late-1960s, “It was a turbulent time…Both for me and for the twins. They lived near where I lived, together with a gang of car thieves. One day my car had been broken into and for a moment I suspected them but they said, no, they hadn’t broken into my car.” Indeed, pedantic pinko auteur Alexander Kluge states something similar about the twins’ character, remarking, “I consider the two to be extremely self-sufficient. I can’t separate self-sufficiency from crime or intrigue because anyone who thinks he can do it, can do it.”

In one particularly notable photo collage scene featured in Schneeweißrosenrot, Jutta and Gisela are featured in various black-and-white photographs topless sporting SS hats that echo the infamous scene of Charlotte Rampling singing the Marlene Dietrich song “Wenn ich mir was wünschen dürfte” in Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter (1974). Undoubtedly, this SS striptease acts as a sort of accidental allegory for Deutschland in the post-WWII era, especially when compared to a photo also featured in the documentary of the twins' father sporting a Nazi uniform, where discipline has been traded in for debauchery and the patriarchy has been overpowered by the matriarchy. In terms of Jutta and Gisela’s supposed sex appeal, I just cannot wrap my head around how so many kraut and yank counter-culture types found these two androgynous opportunists, who resembled half-caste Chinese teenage boys, so terribly delectable, but then again, most of these effortlessly effete fellows assumedly needed a little bit of testosterone to balance out there own estrogen imbalances. Admittedly, had Rainer Werner Fassbinder—a man obsessed with doppelgangers, femme fatales, and general cruel women—not overdosed in 1982, it would have been nice to see him direct a biopic about the lurid lives of the twins, who might be best described as ‘Mata Haris of Germany's counter-culture generation.’ If nothing else, Schneeweißrosenrot will always be a memorable documentary for me in that David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997) will forever be all the more bizarre for me after discovering star Balthazar Getty’s parents are no less debauched than the characters of the film, not to mention the fact that John Paul Getty III’s kidnapping is eerily reminiscent of the one in Blue Velvet (1986); severed ear and all. 

-Ty E

1 comment:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

That little girl really is an amazing Heather O`Rourke lookalike, could you post a picture of her showing her bum ! ! !.