Jul 2, 2014

The Gold Of Love

Maybe it is because I am one of the few cinephiles that loves those oh-so rare films that blend both lowbrow trash and highbrow celluloid sophistication for a rather curious cinematic blend, but the more films I see by Eckhart Schmidt (Jet Generation - Wie Mädchen heute Männer lieben, Alpha City), the more I feel that the director is one of the most underappreciated, misunderstood, and original Teutonic filmmakers of his zeitgeist. Instead of making dry and dreary far-left films criticizing so-called “ordinary fascism” and the kraut bourgeoisie like many of the filmmakers associated with German New Cinema, Schmidt directed poetic neo-romantic works featuring a healthy serving of sensational sex and violence, among other things, with Der Fan (1982) aka Trance—a decidedly dark, distinctly disturbing, and even demented work starring one-time Eurovision presenter Désirée Nosbusch as a crazed music fan who stalks and eventually maliciously murders her favorite musician, who fronts a Kraftwerk-esque electronic group—being his most successful work to date (somewhat unsurprisingly, Japanese ‘celebrity cannibal’ Issei Sagawa is a fan of the film). Featuring part of the same cast and crew as Der Fan, the director’s next feature, Das Gold der Liebe (1983) aka The Gold of Love, would also focus on a cutesy fangirl who develops an unhealthy obsession with her favorite musicians. Described by Schmidt in 1997 as follows, “The film was made only at night in about 10 days. A part of the team was the same as on DER FAN and they were taken to the limit, because the Viennese nights were loaded: From actors on drugs to shooting permits that could only be realised with pressure,” The Gold of Love is undoubtedly a more aesthetically ambitious, eccentric, and esoteric work than its much more popular cinematic predecessor, as a pathologically phantasmagoric and hyperphysical work driven by a quite spellbinding dream-logic where nothing is as it seems. Indeed, comparable to the more inaccessible and anti-linear works of German Expressionism like Geheimnisse einer Seele (1926) aka Secrets of a Soul directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Schmidt’s film is unquestionably somewhat in the spirit of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 novella Traumnovelle aka Dream Story, albeit set in a deathly degenerate Vienna where a corrosive cocktail of Neue Deutsche Welle, heroin, sexual depravity, and all-around insanity rule the streets. Undoubtedly, one of the most strangely charming aspects of the film is that the somnambulist-like teenage lead (played by Alexandra Curtis, who is the daughter of Austrian diva Christine Kaufmann and Hollywood Hebrew Tony Curtis) is obsessed with the German electropunk/NDW group D.A.F. (Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft) and finds a guardian angel in the form of a member of the Austrian New Wave group Blümchen Blau (who, like D.A.F., also contributed music to the film’s rather notable soundtrack). Indeed, The Gold of Love is probably the world’s first and last surrealist Neue Deutsche Welle horror flick (Austrian auteur Niki List's 1982 cult flick Malaria is also NDW-driven but it does not feature horror elements) and it’s a rather remarkable one at that. Apparently, when the film was released, Schmidt stated something along the lines that no film critic would be able to analyze it and indeed, The Gold of Love is loaded with all sorts of religious and cultural symbolism, as a modernist metaphysical horror flick with a darkly romantic spirit that is best approached as one would approach their own dreams—on the subconscious level. 

 After opening with footage of D.A.F. performing to the strangely soothing sounds of industrial noise, The Gold of Love then cuts to a scene of the film’s 16-year-old protagonist Patricia (Alexandra Curtis, who previously starred in the excellent Austrian film Die Ausgesperrten (1982) aka The Excluded directed by Franz Novotny) being awakened from her slumber after hearing someone chanting her name. After looking at the moon, Patricia, who is a somnambulist-like state, becomes convinced that the members of D.A.F., Gabriel "Gabi" Delgado-López and Robert Görl, have supernaturally summoned her to come to Vienna to see them. Indeed, Patricia walks all the way to Vienna by her lonesome, but when she gets to the venue where the band is playing, she is denied entry because she has no money, so tears of blood (!) begin to run down her face as if she is the Virgin Mary of NDW. While Patricia talks to an unknown girl (Marie Colbin) via an outdoor speaker who agrees to sneak her into the concert, the teen ultimately stumbles on a gruesome yet strangely aesthetically pleasing ritualistic murder (the chick repeatedly stabs another chick in the stomach as if raping her abdomen) that is being executed by the same curious chick who agreed to help see D.A.F. perform. Indeed, the killer ‘Princess of the Night’ (indeed, this is the name of Colbin’s character as listed in the credits) is the member of a nasty little nocturnal gang led by a tall and lanky leather-jacket-adorned psychopathic Aryan degenerate named ‘Ernsti’ (Hermann Strobel), who completely controls the Viennese underworld and lives by the curious little motto “corpse to corpse,” as if his job is to exterminate the entire population of the city. Naturally, since Patricia witnessed the murder, Ernsti and his ‘gal goons’ (indeed, aside from the ‘Queen of the Night,’ the gang’s second-in-command is another quasi-dyke-like chick with dark hair) want the teenager dead because she witnessed the grisly murder and they know where to look for her since she made a big deal about meeting Gabi and Robert of D.A.F., who apparently enjoy hanging around the more sleazy joints in Vienna when not jumping around on stage like spastic stormtroopers. 

 When Patricia arrives at a Neue Deutsche Welle club while searching for the mysterious ‘gold of love,’ she happens upon Gabi and Robert’s black leather combat boots, as well as a number of eccentric and super sensual characters, including a couple having bestial sex in plain view, a completely nude blonde chick with a big bushy bush sitting cross-legged in a chair, and a couple pale white corpses with golden blond hair. When the seemingly hypnotized teenager leaves the club, she spots a glowing white car (indeed, this is another insistence where the film takes a somewhat subtle supernatural approach) containing the two mysterious fellows behind D.A.F.. After failing to meet Gabi and Robert, Patricia enters a bar and spots an overweight mensch fiddling with two handguns who ultimately blows his brains out just as the teenager is running out of ominous taproom. When Patricia goes to a second bar, she meets a seemingly supernatural prophet/wiseman/Christ-like figured named ‘Heller’ (played by Viennese Jew André Heller, who previously read a long monologue in Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s 1977 magnum opus Hitler: A Film from Germany), who tells the teen dream: “I know what you are looking for but maybe you’ll find something else entirely.” While talking to Heller, Patricia passes out and the ‘Queen of the Night’ soon shows up and throws a dagger at the Semitic Sage’s back yet, quite miraculously, he survives and manages to save the protagonist from being fatally penetrated by the mad Queen's knife.  Indeed, the Queen of the Nacht ultimately proves to be no match for Heller and Patricia's god-like will power.

 As the film progresses in a fantastically foreboding fashion, Patricia encounters another prophet/sage (Andrea Wurstbauer) of sorts at a hair salon, who gives the young girl a somewhat sinister yet sensual head massage and states, “They won’t look for you here. They know I’m crazy and that I’m looking for a different victim every night […] Don’t disappoint me…all I’m looking for is the gold of love.” The mystic Hairdresser also repeats what Heller said by warning Patricia that, “Maybe you’ll find something else.” When Patricia goes to another bar (indeed, it seems like the only things that exist in Vienna are sleazy bars and equally sleazy music venues), homicidal heroin Führer Ernsti shows up and tells the teen dream that she will not live to see the next day while pressing a gun into her gut, but luckily a virtuous female bartender named Raphaela (played by star Curtis’ sister Allegra Curtis), who is completely fed up with all the heroin and homicide that the gang has plagued the city with, helps the teen escape, at least temporarily. After being grabbed by a faceless corpse-like being while hiding amongst the shadows of the maleficent metropolis, Patricia is caught by the pernicious Princess of the Night, who injects potentially deadly street junk into the little lady's arm. After falling in and out of consciousness at a concert, Patricia once again spots Gabi and Robert’s phosphorescent automobile, but she is in for quite the surprise when she looks inside the car and sees that her two favorite musicians are lifeless skeletons. On top of experiencing the disappointment of a lifetime upon learning that the two dudes behind D.A.F. are nothing but bones, Patricia is immediately shot in the gut by Ernsti, but somehow she does not die. After being shot, Patricia enters a nefarious nightmare of the surreal ‘sex and death’ oriented sort where she encounters, among other things, a woman stabbing herself in the vag, thus resulting in a bloody mess that puts the most moribund of miscarriages to shame. After the deranging dream-sequence, Patricia goes to see the Austrian New Wave group Blümchen Blau perform. Throughout the film, the singer of the band, Jakob Mundl, acted as a sort of goofy ‘Guardian Angel’ for Patricia. After finishing their set, the Guardian Angel kisses Patricia and she instantly faints (as she does quite often throughout the film), so he and the rest of his band carry her away so that she may sleep in safety.  Ultimately, The Gold of Love ends as it began with Patricia awaking in her room after feeling the power of moonlight, albeit this time she does not waste her time wandering the streets of vice-ridden Vienna, as she seems to have realized that musicians are not gods. Indeed, it was all a dream and like Bergman’s Persona (1966) and Federico Fellini’s And the Ship Sails On (1983), the film concludes in a metacinematic fashion by revealing the film crew, including auteur Eckhart Schmidt coaching star Alexandra Curtis. 

 Undoubtedly, out of all the films I can think of, the expressionistic American film noir flick Dementia (1955) aka Daughter of Horror directed by John Parker is the only cinematic work that comes even close to The Gold of Love in terms of its literally and figuratively dark essence and singularly oneiric and ominous atmosphere. Of course, Schmidt’s film is much more malevolent and disconcerting in its essence, but unlike Dementia, it ultimately seems to have a ‘happy’ ending and even a positive message, which is rather rare for a Schmidt flick. Undoubtedly, a major clue to the hermetic celluloid puzzle that is The Gold of Love is the remark, “you’ll find something else,” which is made by two of the Sages that the protagonist encounters during her otherworldly odyssey. Indeed, in the end, Patricia does not find the “gold of love” aka (D.A.F.), but she does learn that her musician heroes are nothing but ‘empty skeletons’ (or ‘fool's gold’) and not the great holy grail that she risked her life, limb, and soul to search for. Indeed, set in a murder, suicide, and heroin plagued Vienna where D.A.F. flyers cover virtually every single wall and building, the film ultimately (and possibly unwittingly) demonstrates that musicians are not the virtual gods that the media has promoted them as, but modern day ‘Golden Calves’ and false prophets who are the foremost spreaders of spiritual syphilis and all-around cultural degeneracy, hence why sex, death, and drugs are innate qualities of the NDW scene featured in the film. Of course, the protagonist of Schmidt’s previous film Der Fan did not come to this revelation until it was too late, so she lost what little was left of her already unhinged mind as a result, thereupon resulting in coldblooded murder of the most macabre sort. Interestingly but not surprisingly, The Gold of Love was not the last film Schmidt made where he dealt with the unhealthy phenomenon of teens obsessing over dopey dope-addled musicians, as he followed the work up with the comedy Wie treu ist Nik? (1986), which is from the perspective of the musicians as opposed to the fans like the two previous films. Indeed, while Schmidt has spent much of his career writing on and directing films about post-counter-culture music trends (his first feature, Jet Generation - Wie Mädchen heute Männer lieben, is a sort of kraut equivalent to Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966)), his works do not romanticize these trends, with The Gold of Love demonstrating that Neue Deutsche Welle was no different than the modern cultural trends that preceded it, even if it did have better music (I must admit that I love D.A.F.’s hit song “Der Mussolini”). Featuring everything from a whacked out woman shoving a knife up her naughty bits to a young murderess kidnapping a teen girl and injecting street smack into her arm, The Gold of Love is assuredly Schmidt’s darkest and most demented film yet, rather ironically, it also seems to be his least nihilistic, but then again, maybe the auteur had a thing for star Alexandra Curtis and did not want to see her meet an appalling end (indeed, while Curtis is not exactly the cutest girl in the world, she certainly beats her ugly American half-sister Jamie Lee Curtis). Undoubtedly, the film is also the director’s most accomplished example of his greatest talent as a filmmaker; combining high kultur with ridiculously sleazy trash. The only other film that I know of that manages to seamlessly mesh quasi-punk performances with surreal and foreboding metaphysical horror is the Hungarian film The Dog's Night Song (1983) aka Kutya éji dala directed by Gábor Bódy.  Indeed, The Gold of Love is like the The Blood of a Poet (1930) aka Le Sang d'un Poète  of the Neue Deutsche Welle scene, albeit directed by a rampantly heterosexual kraut as opposed to a faggy frog. Of course, one also must not forget that Schmidt's work is probably the only film ever made that makes you want to, “tanz den Mussolini” during the middle of a dark and sinister night.

-Ty E


eddie lydecker said...

Ty E, i was also right when i said it could be a classic, it was arguably the best match of the tourna-girl-t so far. Whos your money on now ?, i`d say the Dutch although they`ve got a very difficult quarter-final coming up against an ever improving Costa Rica side. I suppose most American fans will now side with Belgium, their quarter final with Ar-lady-ina could be a classic as well, will you be watching ! ?.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"Spastic stormtroopers", i fell off my chair laughing when i read that (because its true!!!!!).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I really enjoyed reading the 15th, 16th, and 17th lines of the 5th paragraph (once agin because they were true), especially with regards to worthless British faggot scum like Elton John.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

On the VHS cover she looks a bit like a young version of Genevieve Bujold.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"Rampantly heterosexual Kraut", another truly beautiful phrase.