Jan 1, 2015
I have never really cared for celebrating New Year's Eve aside from when I was like 5-years-old because it was the only time my parents would let me stay up past midnight, but for some reason, I decided that I wanted to see if I could dig up one single film revolving around the bullshit holiday that was semi-decent, which ultimately rather predictably proved to be a hopelessly frivolous and tasking non-goal of the ultra banal sort with next to nil pay-off. I considered watching the second-rate slasher flick New Year's Evil (1980) directed by Emmett Alston (who, incidentally, was the cinematographer behind the metaphysical pseudo-arthouse abortion Moonchild (1974) directed by Alan Gadney) but then I realized that I was not in enough of a masochistic mood to watch such pointless celluloid dreck. I also thought about watching the short Arthur Schnitzler adaptation Silvesternacht - Ein Dialog (1978) aka New Year's Eve co-directed by Douglas Sirk and Hajo Gies and starring Fassbinder diva Hanna Schygulla and Hebraic-blooded perennial screen Nazi Christian Berkel, but I was not in the mood for some heavy Sirkian melodrama, even in such a small dose, so I opted to watch some immature 1990s kraut quasi-arthouse trash instead. Indeed, I ultimately decided to watch Silvester Countdown (1997) aka In With the New directed by Teutonic enfant turd Oskar Roehler (Agnes und seine Brüder aka Agnes and His Brothers, Atomised aka Elementary Particles) as I felt in the mood for a combination of failed celluloid art and sleazy nihilistic trash. Although No Place to Go (2000) aka Die Unberührbare—a quasi-expressionistic work depicting the director’s Marxist novelist mother Gisela Elsner’s suicide as partly inspired by the German reunification and the death of her dream of a commie Krautland—is oftentimes described as Roehler’s debut feature, he directed a couple of mostly forgotten mid-length and feature-length films before that. Somewhat notably, Roehler’s directorial debut was the rather politically incorrect 60-minute work Gentleman (1995) starring the somewhat obscure German cult figure Konradin Markus Leiner aka QRT aka “Fascho-Kurt”—a sort of ‘postmodern’ fascist junky philosopher and neo-dandy who overdosed on heroin not long after the film was released, but not before penning a 500-page tome called Drachensaat aka Dragon's Seed: The Way to the Nihilist Hero influenced by everyone from Ernst Jünger and Otto Weininger to alpha-Beat William S. Burroughs—engaging in unsimulated drug use (i.e. shooting up heroin) and killing unclad sluts. Roehler also directed hedonistic trash like the grotesque feature-length work Gierig (1999), as well as the TV movie Latin Lover (1999) co-penned by bank robber turned novelist/actor Burkhard Driest (Stroszek, Cross of Iron, Querelle), yet Silvester Countdown still seems like the work of a formative auteur who has yet to fully develop his true style. Like Gregg Araki hetero-kraut style on speed meets would-be-titillating MTV-approved Euro-techno trash, Roehler’s darkly comedic New Year's Eve nightmare is a plot-less and obscenely aesthetically outmoded jerk-off piece of the plodding yet sometimes playful sort that depicts the troubled relationship of two young Berlin-based lovers who fuck like rabbits, but spend most of the rest of the time fighting and emotionally tormenting one another over the most trivial of things.
The somewhat ironically named ‘Romeo’ (portrayed by actor/director/producer Rolf Peter Kahl of artsploitation trash like Angel Express (1998) and Bedways (2010)) and ‘Julia’ (Marie Zielcke of Christian Zübert’s Lammbock (2001) and Doris Dörrie’s Am I Beautiful? (1998)) are two erratic lovers that live in a mostly vacant and unfurnished apartment in Berlin that resembles a sterile doctor’s office. Julia likes to dress in vulgar costumes mostly involving unnaturally colored wigs, a pleather trench-coat, neon underwear and goofy glasses to surprise Romeo, who seems to rather enjoy such seemingly silly role-playing as demonstrated by the impassioned sex sessions that ensue, but after the fucking all hell breaks loose, as the two foredoomed love birds do not seem to get along otherwise and tend to rebuke one another over the most moronic of (non)infractions and (pseudo)problems. Probably to reflect their infantile mentalities, the couple's apartment is adorned with children’s toys like tricycles and superhero paraphernalia, as if the two are living in a perennial state of childhood and would find it to be much too bourgeois to decorate their living space with family photographs, antique furniture, and proper home appliances. While Romeo is some sort of degenerate photographer that takes trashy pinup photos of generic-looking models, Julia is a less than serious college student who flies into rages anytime her beau demonstrates his care and concern for her by reminding her to go to class or study. Julia is so emotionally volatile that she even flies into a violent rage after Romeo eats something off her plate to the point where she throws the dish of food at her boyfriend and threatens to leave him. In fact, Julia does a lot of threatening to leave, but she does not dare to actually follow through with her threats as it would probably be detrimental to her hedonistic lifestyle of lecherous loser living. Unquestionably, the couple are spontaneous and thrill-seeking, but this seems to be more the result of their lack of self-control and maturity than any sort of true virtue. When Romero’s old buddy Franz (Robert Viktor Minich of Hans Weingartner’s Free Rainer (2007)) invites him and Julia to hangout with him after hearing about his pal's new hot girlfriend, the two lovers take an ultimately disastrous trip to Poland that demonstrates how truly toxic and ultimately terminal their relationship really is.
On the train ride to Polackland, Julia expresses to Romeo her concern that he always ruins her mood and then explains how he once mocked a postcard of two lovers on a platform at Vistula valley in Poland and how she is only partly excited about going there now as a result of his negative attitude. Ultimately, the two end up hanging out with Franz and his very Aryan-looking Polish drug addict girlfriend Jessica (Juliane Werner) at Vistula valley and Romeo ends up bitching the entire time because he has a hard time treading through the snow and is jealous of the fact that his old buddy is shamelessly flirting with his girlfriend, who seems to lap up all the attention just because she knows that it pisses her overly jealous boy toy off. When Julia spends too much time flirting and smoking hash with Franz, Romeo gets all moody and broody and leaves abruptly, but not before bitching out his friend after he does nothing to help out his girlfriend Jessica after she passes out after she swallows one too many pills. While in public, Romeo seems jealous of every man that looks at Julia and even goes on a bizarre irrational rant about how he would love to shave off one guy’s mustache and glue onto a woman’s pussy after suspecting the guy has checked out his girlfriend. After their failed rendezvous with Franz and Jessica, the couple decides to head to Warsaw where they have spontaneous sex in dark alleyways in between bickering and bitching to one another. When the two go to a sleazy peepshow joint, Romeo demonstrates his complete and utter moral bankruptcy by remarking regarding one of the strippers, “Look at the eyes. Totally dead! What a turn-on” and then makes the dubious decision to encourage his girlfriend to strip in one of the peepshow booths. Of course, Romeo ultimately gets exceedingly pissed after seeing Julia strip, especially after the swarthy Slavic scumbag manager of the establishment remarks regarding his girlfriend, “German girls are really first class and she’s a #1 dancer.” To make Julia feel like a cheap slut, Romeo tries to talk her into screwing the manager of the peepshow joint, which enrages her so much that she runs out of the building and almost gets hit by a car in the process. After that, the two attempt taking various cab rides back to their hotel, but due to their pathologically antagonistic and highly irritable personalities, it ends each time with them having to be driven back to where they originally started, which is symbolic of the hopeless vicious circle nature of their relationship and lives in general.
When Romeo and Julia finally get back to Germany after five grueling days of tragic-comedic hell, their contempt for one another has only grown all the stronger, with the fights only becoming all the more hateful and frequent and sex becoming virtually nonexistent. Indeed, Romeo begins failing to assert himself sexually and towards the end of their rather ridiculous relationship, he masturbates in bed while lying next to Julia shortly after they have a fight in what is easily one of the most pathetic ‘sex’ scenes in all of cinema history. While more or less a stupid little girl who has no idea what she wants in life, Julia finally wises up to the fact that her catastrophic relationship with Romeo is irreparably broken, with sex—the one thing that kept them together—no longer even working. The chaos of their bitter romance is reflected in the fact that their flat becomes covered in tons of trash, dirty clothes, and various other forms of cluttered junk, with Julia beginning to physically and mentally resemble a rambling drunken hobo who looks like she might explode at any minute. Of course, Julia eventually leaves for good, thus forcing Romero to suffer alone while wasting away in his trash-covered apartment, which has turned into a virtual fortress of proto-hipster loserdom. At the end of the film, Romero absurdly jerks off to a nude photograph of Julia while standing in front of a mirror in a scene symbolic of the character’s corrosive and self-destructive masturbatory narcissism. As for Julia, one can only assume that she discovered the error of her ways and found a less than attractive but monetarily successful older man who she could become a stay-at-home wife to.
Notably, auteur Oskar Roehler once remarked regarding the two unloving lovers of Silvester Countdown that, “Neither of them are mature enough for love and maybe never will be,” thus highlighting the fact that the director is in no way sympathetic to the deplorable couple in his film, though I am sure that he can at least relate to their plight as a fellow from the very same ‘lost’ generation and aimless subculture that the film depicts in such a deplorably decadent fashion. As the unwanted progeny of two self-absorbed card-carrying commie novelists who was pawned off to his grandparents and never knew a normal family upbringing, Roehler grew up a broken individual and many of his largely autobiographical films like No Place to Go (2000), Atomised (2006), Lulu and Jimi (2009), and Sources of Life (2013) aka Quellen des Lebens reflect his considerably dysfunctional and screwed up background (which he discussed in some deal on the German TV channel DW), with the latter film being based on an autobiographical novel entitled Herkunft spanning three generations of the director’s own trouble family. Ironically, while Sources of Life portrays Roehler's far-leftist ‘progressive’ parents as horribly narcissistic and abusive individuals, the director's ex-Nazi grandfather—a one-time supporter of Strasserism, the ‘left-wing’ branch of National Socialism that was promoted by Hitler's rivals Gregor and Otto Strasser—is depicted in a rather sympathetic light. Undoubtedly, Silvester Countdown depicts the sort of screwed up individuals that Roehler's parents and the later 68er-Bewegung generation produced as a result of their ostensibly liberal, far-left anti-bourgeois weltanschauungs. While Roehler may not be a Fassbinder or even a Herzog, his films are important for the simple fact that they offer a window into the sort of decidedly deleterious effect that far-leftist brainwashing and non-parenting had on an entire generation of Germans. As the director has explained in interviews, he had the opportunity to experience the mentalities of both the pre-WWII and post-WWII generations as someone who was shuffled between his father (his mother was completely out of the picture) and both sets of grandparents during his erratic childhood. Silvester Countdown was clearly made at a point in Roehler’s life when he was still a young man and had probably failed to develop any sort of meaningful romantic relationship that actually transcended sex. I can certainly relate to a relationship with great sex but plagued fighting, but my personal problems certainly seem completely insignificant compared to those of the couple in Roehler’s film whose incessant bickering literally brought nausea to my stomach, which was only further accentuated by the film’s bombastic and terribly plastic pseudo-hip soundtrack, which sounds like what you might expect to hear in a gay night club in hell. Indeed, if I had eaten the normal New Year's Eve junk food while listening to the grotesque song “Shut Up (And Sleep With Me)” by Sin with Sebastian (fronted by obnoxiously vulgar quasi-tranny kosher cocksucker Sebastian Roth), I would have probably projectile vomited on my computer screen. In terms of sights, sounds, and general essence, Silvester Countdown would probably be best described as an anti-nostalgic celluloid fever dream that vividly demonstrates why the 1990s were such an aesthetically aberrant and culturally vacant zeitgeist that surely reflected the curious collective unconscious of the people of that time. Of course, considering this is the New Year and all, I have to conclude that, judging by Silvester Countdown, people are not sticking to whatever bullshit resolutions they have been making each year, as people have only grown more vapid, hedonistic, immature, and autistic since the film was released nearly two decades ago.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 2:18 AM
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