Apr 9, 2014
Like with comedies, Germany has never been a big exporter of gritty and ultra-masculine exploitation films, especially the sort someone like spastic fanboy Quentin Tarantino rambles on about, yet one Teutonic actor/auteur, Roger Fritz (Mädchen, Mädchen aka Girls, Girls, Häschen in der Grube aka Rabbit in the Pit) made a couple superlatively sleazy yet shockingly artful quasi-exploitation flicks that certainly deserve attention, with his work Mädchen... nur mit Gewalt (1970) aka Cry Rape aka The Brutes aka Love by Rape being arguably his greatest film. Beginning as a photojournalist who snapped photos for mainstream magazines like Stern and Vogue Paris, Fritz assisted Luchino Visconti with the direction of his segment of the Italian film anthology Boccaccio '70 (1962) and The Leopard (1963) while living in Rome and began acting and making short films in the early 1960s, including his first short Verstummte Stimmen (1961), which won him a German Film Award, as well as a short about the building of the Berlin Wall entitled Zimmer im Grünen (1962), which earned him the official certificate ‘Besonders wertvoll’ (meaning ‘Particularly Valuable’, which German auteur Hellmuth Costard mocked by making a quasi-pornographic avant-garde short of the same name in 1968) which is only awarded to German works of extraordinary artistic value. By the late-1960s, Fritz luckily opted to stop appealing to the vogue politics and aesthetics of that zeitgeist and began making violent and sexually nihilistic works, with his first feature Mädchen, Mädchen (1967) aka Girls, Girls, which was co-written by anti-arthouse auteur Eckhart Schmidt (Der Fan aka Trance, Loft) being a success and winning the director’s soon-to-be wife Helga Anders (The White Horses TV series, Derrick TV series) the German Film Award for ‘Best Performance by a Young Actress.’ Although Fritz would go on to star in films directed by Fassbinder like Despair (1978), Lili Marleen (1981), and Querelle (1982), he was a member of the lesser known German film movement ‘Neue Münchner Gruppe’ aka ‘New Munich Group,’ which also included his comrade Eckhart Schmidt, Klaus Lemke, and Rudolf Thome. Like Roland Klick (Deadlock, Supermarkt), Fritz would sow hatred and disdain in the dogooder leftist critics with his rape-without-revenge-themed artsploitation flick The Brutes (I use the alternate American title of Mädchen... nur mit Gewalt for sake of convenience in this review), yet the film has a visceral elegance and unadulterated form of nihilistic violence that is surely rarer today in cinema than when the film was released over four decades ago. Described in Variety as follows, “It's the cruelest, most ruthless, inclement, and carnal-manic story to transpire from a German film for a long time. Told with cold, almost clinical detachment, devoid of any “moral message,” it still manages to draw a few drops of humanity from a flood of barbarous inhumanity,” The Brutes has a sort of fiercely foreboding essence that is hidden deeply in the post-WWII German collective unconscious that films of German New Cinema mostly simply chose to ignore. The twisted Teutonic tale of two friends in their 30s and an underage girl that one of the two men chooses to rape while the other simply prefers psychological torture, The Brutes is a piece of pernicious celluloid poetry featuring Fassbinder actors and a score by Irmin Schmidt of the pioneering krautrock group Can that reminds viewers that not all Germans filmmakers of the 1970s were art fags and neo-bolshevik/feminist provocateurs.
Mike (Arthur Brauss, who played the killer eponymous lead of Wim Wenders’ most brutal film, The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick) and Werner aka ‘Warren’ (played by Klaus Löwitsch, who played the James Bond-like lead in Welt am Draht aka World on a Wire, among countless other Fassbinder flicks) are best friends who get a kick out of sexually harassing women, including married ones whose husbands are at work. Undoubtedly, Mike is the alpha of the two friends due to having a far greater intellectual prowess and he has no problem berating Werner, who has a hard time picking up chicks on his own in front of other people. In fact, it seems neither friend can ‘rise to the occasion’ without the other buddy egging him own, as if they are more aroused by the hyper-masculine camaraderie of it all than getting in between a hot chick’s legs. One day, the two friends go go-karting and Werner ends up getting in a little crash with a super suave prick named Jerry (played by Rolf Zacher, who, aside from once being married to Gisela Getty, was a member of the krautrock group Amon Düül II during the early 1970s), who just happens to have four beauteous babes with him. In the end, Warren and Jerry let bygones be bygones and everyone goes to cool down at a bar. Ultimately, it is decided that everyone will go and have a bonfire party at a remote construction site on the outskirts of town, with an underage teen named Alice (Helga Anders) deciding to hitch a ride with the two strange friends. Of course, for whatever reason, Alice’s friends never show up and Werner gets it in his mind that he wants to rape her after seeing her skinny-dipping, stating rather bestially to his man Mike, “Aww man, is that a great little body. Man, I’m horny.” Mike teases Werner’s lack of talent when it comes to the ladies and has no problem stating to Alice, “My dear Alice…Excuse my frankness but would you allow me to bang you tonight?,” but she playfully rebuffs his request. Being a virtual child with a grown woman’s body, Alice is only interested in playing hide-and-go-seek and the two friends humor her, but Werner has ulterior motives of the sexually savage sort, which Mike encourages. When Alice goes hiding, Mike instigates Werner into raping her, stating, “There she is, get her. Take her. Run, it’s your last chance.” Needless to say, Werner rapes Alice and Mike gets himself off by driving around in his car and flashing his headlights on the two literally down-and-dirty non-lovers. While Werner sexually pillages Alice, she attempts to fight by slapping her rapist in the face, but that only arouses him all the more, as he smiles at his victim with a sort of unsavory and sadistic glee.
Of course, everything changes in The Brutes after the rape. The next day, Werner seems to be genuinely sorry for what he has done and Alice threatens to tell her father and cops about the incident. In his patently childish defense, Werner yells to Alice, “First you drive a guy crazy and then you start to bawl. You were begging for it, you bitch.” From there, Mike begins to play mind-games with Alice, telling her he will personally drive her to the police station and help her file charges. Of course, his ultimate goal is to scare Alice from actually going to the police, as he goes into the humiliating detail about how her naughty bits would be examined by a police doctor for ‘vaginal trauma,’ how she will have to describe the size of Werner’s ‘SO’ (sex organ), and how she will have to explain to the courts why she decided to get in a car with two strangers in the first place. Needless to say, Mike psyches Alice out and she rethinks about going to the police. Rather bizarrely, Werner begins getting rather infuriated by Mike’s emotional cruelty as if he is defending his girlfriend from a random brute, so he throws his bud into a manmade pond. From there, a full-on brawl breaks out and Werner nearly drowns Mike, but Alice ironically convinces him to save his friend from a very certain death. While Mike is unconscious, Werner attempts to rape Alice again after she reluctantly allows him to kiss her, but does a rather pathetic job as it is quite clear he is ashamed of himself. After regaining consciousness and hiding out for a bit, Mike manages to catch Werner at knifepoint and binds his legs and arms, ultimately threatening to castrate him (it seems pedantic intellectual Mike is jealous of Werner's animalistic sexual stamina). Instead, Mike merely stabs Werner in the leg and gives the knife to Alice to cut him loose. In the end, police arrive via helicopter and Alice neglects to mention she was raped, even though the police give her multiple opportunities to do such. In the last scene, the Teutonic threesome drives away together, with Alice now ironically seeming like the most domineering of the trio in the end, thus demonstrating the hermetic power of the feminine touch and the ability of sensitive women to tame rough and tough men of the rapist sort.
Although it is mere speculation on my part, it seems that The Brutes stars Klaus Löwitsch and Arthur Brauss and director Roger Fritz must has had great chemistry with one another as all three of them would go on to star in Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron (1977) together. While Löwitsch played one of the more major characters as a soap-hating and knife-loving super soldier Corporal Krüger, Fritz would play a closeted homosexual soldier named Lieutenant Triebig, and Brauss played a SS man named ‘Zoll’ who has his pecker bitten off by a hungry Bolshevik bitch. Undoubtedly, The Brutes has the some sort of venomously visceral and untamed masculinity, which is unfortunately quite rare in post-WWII German cinema, especially from the young German filmmakers of the early 1970s. Indeed, like Roland Klick’s Deadlock (1970), Rainer Erler’s Fleisch (1979) aka Spare Parts, and Eckhart Schmidt’s Alpha City (1985), Fritz’s The Brutes managed to offer some good old martial masculinity in German cinema that was all but castrated by the nation’s defeat during the Second World War. While Fritz’s feature filmmaking career basically ended after The Brutes and he would only go on to direct TV movies and TV series (though he did direct one more feature, Frankfurt: The Face of a City (1981) aka Frankfurt Kaiserstraße), he would continue acting, with his last role being in Ulli Lommel’s major mess Daniel der Zauberer (2004). Currently, Fritz still works as a photographer and did the still photography for Fassbinder’s swansong Querelle (1982), about which he also published a book. Despite its hyper-masculinity, there also seems to be a homoerotic subtext to The Brutes that is in a similar vein to Querelle. Of course, it is homoeroticism in the Ernst Röhm sense and not the queenish Werner Schroeter sense. Featuring none of the silly sort of outlandish and cartoonish histrionic overacting that plagues many Italian exploitation films of a similar ilk, The Brutes is a Teutonic psychosexual-thriller with testicular fortitude that makes one wish that there were more Roger Fritzes and Roland Klicks in Deutschland than Margarethe von Trottas and Jean-Marie Straubs, as Tarantino's films would certainly benefit from Aryanism and less Guidoism. Indeed, had Tarantino discovered the films of the New Munich Group, he might have been less prone to racial, cultural, and sexual cuckoldry, but maybe I am just being a tad bit too optimistic. Either way, Roger Fritz's The Brutes is indisputable proof that cinematic rape and violence can be tasteful and even artistically merited if put into the right man's hands.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 10:45 PM
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