Oct 20, 2014
While not that well known, a number of German New Cinema alpha auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder's actors also tried their lot at being filmmakers with mostly disastrous results. Indeed, from Fassbinder's musical composer Peer Raben (Adele Spitzeder, Heute spielen wir den Boß) to producer Michael Fengler (Output, Petty Thieves) to leading man Ulli Lommel (Haytabo, Adolf Marlene), many of the filmmaker's collaborators seemed to think they could build a film making career due to connections with R.W., but of course, most of them more or less failed. Probably one of the more bizarre and somewhat disturbing examples of this is character actor Hark Bohm who starred in a number of Fassbinder flicks as an annoying nerd, effeminate bureaucrat, and even a cowardly cuckold, starting with Der amerikanische Soldat (1970) aka The American Soldier and concluding with the director's 40th and antepenultimate film Lola (1981); what is little known, however, is that he was also directing films of his own throughout this entire period with his directorial debut being the minimalistic ‘Bavarian western’ Chetan, Indian Boy (1972) aka Tschetan, der Indianerjunge starring the director's much cooler and more famous brother Marquard Bohm (Deadlock, Beware of a Holy Whore) as a lone cowboy who saves and raises a young Indian boy from the Lakota Indian tribe, as well as the filmmaker's Mongolian foster son Dschingis Bowakow, who starred in a number of his foster father's films before going on to be a producer and production manager for various films, including Leos Carax's early New French Extremity work Pola X (1999) and Sandra Nettelbeck's popular German-Italian-Austrian-Swiss romantic comedy Mostly Martha (2001) aka Bella Martha. If Bohm's weirdo western Chetan, Indian Boy has anything in common with the films that Bohm would later director aside from starring Bowakow, it is the director's dubious obsession with preteen boys. Indeed, for better or worse, Bohm was the foremost German filmmaker of coming-of-age films starring sexually ambiguous bad boys with long hair that are somewhat in the spirit of William S. Burroughs' pederastic cut-up novel The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead (1971), albeit more bourgeois. While I hate to jump to conclusions on such a revoltingly taboo subject, Chetan, Indian Boy and the director's various other films have led me to speculate that Bohm may have pedophilic predelictions and be a potential boy buggerer. Unquestionably, in Bohm's quasi-revisionist western, like many of his films, gratuitous shots of exotic prepubescent shirtless boys are quite prominent and, probably to most viewers, quite strange and unsavory. Of course, Chetan, Indian Boy is not just what appears to potentially be a playful pedo-fantasy but a work that illustrates the more positive view of American Indians that Germans have held in comparison to their American counterparts. Dating back to the adventure novels of Karl May, which were later used by the National Socialists for anti-American propaganda purposes during the Second World War to demonstrate the savagery of Americans against the Indians, and even during the Third Reich era in films like Luis Trenker's Der Kaiser von Kalifornien aka The Emperor of California—the sole western made during the Nazi period—the krauts have always been more sympathetic to the plight of Injuns than, say, the plots of John Ford films. In a work predating Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained (2012) by four decades, a brave kraut comes to the aid of a young redskin boy who has been by caught stealing by a proto-redneck farmer/Indian exterminator in a work where auteur Bohm demonstrates his seeming fondness for Mongol boys in thongs.
The time and place is Montana in 1880 and a brave, young hippie-like kraut boy named Jacob ‘Alaska’ Precht (Marquard Bohm) has just landed in the area with his herd of sheep and beloved mutt Hector because he plans to stay in the region until the winter passes. One of the reasons the area is so safe is that virtually all of the Indians have been exterminated, especially those of the Lakota tribe. After killing and cooking a cute bunny rabbit, Alaska is approached by a rugged redneck farmer named Ben Johnson (Willy Schultes), who has two young preteen blond beast sons, Erick (Erich Dolz) and Edy (Edy Endorfer), and brags about liquidating all the local Indians, even showing off his latest prey, a Lakota boy named Chetan aka ‘The Falcon’—the last surviving member of his tribe—and describing the little savage lad, who is tied to a horse, as a “rustler.” Although demonstrating his hospitality by providing big Ben with some hot coffee, Alaska soon finds himself a new enemy after revealing he plans to stay in the area for the rest of the winter. Despite the fact that he does not own the land, Ben thinks it is his and resents the fact that Alaska wants to stay in the same area where he plans to have his cattle stay, complaining, “I risk my scalp clearing the neighborhood of the Indians...and there comes a shepherd...who wants to steal the winter pasture from me!” Of course, Alaska makes things worse when he decides to trespass on Ben's property at night and free Chetan, who does not exactly trust the young white man. Indeed, despite the fact that Alaska freed him and ultimately saved his life, Chetan attempts to kill his savior with a machete and escape. Chetan injures Alaska's hand so severely that the cut reaches all the way to the bone, thus leaving him incapable of using it for the rest of the winter. After Alaska has his dog Hector watch Chetan so that he does not escape, the Indian boy, who called the canine “white man's dog,” develops a bond with the animal. A true wild child, Chetan immediately strips out of the white man's clothes that Alaska has given him to wear and prefers to sport his Injun thong. Needless to say, Alaska has a hell of a time attempting to train the savage boy how to work, as Chetan only seems interested in playing with animals, attacking white men, and attempting to kill his master's sheep by having them drink poisonous water.
Despite Chetan's inability to learn how to work and violent rascal-like behavior, Alaska continues to provide shelter for the boy, which ultimately proves to be mighty dangerous from the lone cowboy. Indeed, eventually, Ben Johnson's sons, Erick and Eddy, accuse Alaska of harboring Chetan and threaten him by shooting one of his sheep if he does not return the boy. Meanwhile, Chetan finds the corpses of his parents, who somehow have not begun to rot, and he gives his mother a proper Lakota burial. When Alaska finds Chetan at the Indian settlement with his his deceased parents, the boy attempts to shoot the kraut cowboy in a cute but pathetic attempt to protect his dead family. Eventually, Chetan warms up to Alaska enough to reveal to him that he knows English because he and his family were put on reservations where many of them starved to death after being promised food and shelter by lying whitey. Chetan also reveals that the white man not only slaughtered his entire tribe, but also the bison population, the Lakotas' primary source of food. In terms of spiritual values, the Lakota believe that all livings things, including plants, have souls and one must beg for forgiveness after killing them, though some animals, like eels, have ‘bad souls.’ Although he never outright says it, one gets the feeling that Chetan believes the white man might also have a bad soul, though Alaska will ultimately prove him wrong. Eventually, evil Aryans Erick and Edy spot Chetan tending to Alaska's flock of sheep and attempt to hunt the young Injun down, but being a magical Indian, he seems to disappear into thin air. Of course, Ben Johnson and his two sons eventually show up at Alaska's cabin for a showdown, so Chetan dresses in traditional Indian garb and pulls out his trusty bow-and-arrow with which he shoots Edy Johnson while he is attempting to set fire to a shack containing Lakota horses. Ultimately, Alaska and Chetan win their battle against the Johnsons, but Ben Johnson threatens that he is coming back for revenge, so the cowboy and his Indian head for the mountains. With Alaska now a ‘horse thief’ (which is apparently a honorable status among the Lakota, especially in regard to stealing an enemy's horse) for taking the Johnsons' horses during the stand-off, the two have even more of an incentive to leave. While in the mountains, Alaska is ambushed by two Ogalala Indians, which is a sub-tribe of the Lakota, who steal the cowboy's rifles. Luckily, Chetan arrives just in the nick of time to save Alaska, though the Indian boy opts for leaving with the Ogalala, stating, “I go with my brothers...to the land of the great mother.” Chetan offers Alaska the opportunity to go with him and the Indians, but he decides to stay behind, though he changes his mind at the last second and heads with the three Injuns to Canada.
Personally, the western is one of my least favorite film genres and the idea of a kraut western, especially from German New Cinema era, is just absurd to me, thus Chetan, Indian Boy ultimately proved to be an innately unnerving experience which was only heightened by auteur Hark Bohm's seeming pederastic predilections. Still, I liked that the film featured a real Mongolian boy as a Lakota Indian because American Indians are essentially archaic Mongols after all (despite the politically correct left-wing phrase ‘Native American,’ which has only been relatively recently adopted by younger Indians and the mainstream media/academia, as no race is indigenous to America, with their even being proof that the white European Solutrean man was in America long before the Indians ever arrived via the Bering strait). Bohm's film also takes a more realistic, even anti-Ford approach to the western genre, as a work that features real animal births and what seems to be unsimualted animals deaths, including the shooting of a rabbit. While more sympathetic to the plight of the American Indian than Golden Age westerns, Chetan, Indian Boy certainly does not resort to the exceedingly ethno-masochistic lows of Kevin Costner's putrid piece of xenophiliac celluloid excrement Dances with Wolves (1990), even if it does feature a white protagonist who fights members of his own race to help a savage Indian boy that attempted to kill him. Aside from possibly Mongol or Indian boys, it is dubious as to whether Bohm's film would make for an enthralling coming-of-age flick for young boys. Undoubtedly, with his subsequent, more subversive efforts Nordsee ist Mordsee (1976) aka North Sea Is Dead Sea and Moritz lieber Moritz (1978) aka Moritz, Dear Moritz, Bohm improved his craft as the unofficial meister of kraut coming-of-age flicks. Whether actually a pederast or not, Bohm seems to have a genuine interest in youth as a sort of Aryan Spielberg, albeit slightly less Asperger-addled. If you are looking to see the best German westerns of the 1970s, Roland Klick's Deadlock (1970) starring Bohm's bro Marquard and Fassbinder's Whity (1971) certainly beat the boy-based battles of Bohm's Chetan, Indian Boy. While Bohm's western might be tame for a work associated with German New Cinema, I can cannot help but feel it features a darker meta-secret subtext that is not unlike Spielberg's Hook (1991). Indeed, I don't know about other people, but I always find it rather dubious when an extra geeky guy like Bohm or Spielberg takes a special interest in young boys and dedicates their career to making films about them. Certainly a NAMBLA-worthy work, Chetan, Indian Boy is ultimately only one small step away from being a ‘Boysploitation’ flick in the sickly sensual spirit of Ralph C. Bluemke's Robby (1968) and Anthony Aikman's The Genesis Children (1972). For those looking for a more tasteful boy-based German New Cinema work that can be enjoyed by the entire family, Das goldene Ding (1972) aka The Golden Thing—a reworking of the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts co-directed by Alf Brustellin, Nicos Perakis, Edgar Reitz, and Ula Stöckl and featuring children in most of the lead roles—is certainly your best bet. Needless to say, Bohm's Chetan, Indian Boy demonstrates that kraut westerns have come a long way since the days of Karl May.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 1:17 AM
Soiled Sinema 2007 - 2013. All rights reserved. Best viewed in Firefox and Chrome.