Feb 13, 2015

Kill Daddy Good Night

Last year, three days after Uncle Adolf’s birthday on April, 23, 2014, Austria lost one of it's few great contemporary auteur filmmakers, who tragically succumbed to an unexpected illness while he was doing what he loved best in a most hostile and disease-ridden land. Indeed, while working on his latest film in the real-life hellhole known as Liberia, Michael Glawogger (Workingman’s Death, Slumming) was incorrectly diagnosed with typhus and ultimately died of malaria four days later, thus bringing a tragic premature end to a singular filmmaking career that arguably had yet to reach it's peak in terms of artistry. Although Glawogger worked as a cinematographer for fellow Austrian ‘gritty realist’ filmmaker Ulrich Seidl on works like Tierische Liebe (1996) aka Animal Love and the somewhat bizarre anti-Haider agitprop piece State of the Nation: Austria in Six Chapters (2002) aka Zur Lage: Österreich in sechs Kapiteln, he had been directing his own films since the mid-1980s. Somewhat strangely schooled at the San Francisco Art Institute before finishing the rest of his academic education in his hometown of Vienna, Glawogger learned at an early age to appreciate the experimental filmmaking of avant-gardists like Stan Brakhage and his fellow countryman Peter Kubelka, whose influence would be apparent throughout his career, albeit in a subtle and inconspicuous way so as not to annoy people that are not interested in experimental cinema. While ultimately becoming best known as a sort of ‘wandering documentarian’ (or as he called himself, a “traveling filmmaker”) in the spirit of Werner Herzog who was willing to live in and document the world’s worst third world metropolises and their decidedly degraded inhabitants as demonstrated in notable works like Megacities (1998), Workingman’s Death (2005), and Whores’ Glory (2011), Glawogger also directed a number of fictional features, including raunchy yet culturally and socio-politically astute regional comedies like Nacktschnecken (2004) aka Slugs, Slumming (2009), and Contact High: The Good, the Bad and the Bag (2009), as well as a couple more serious works. Arguably, Glawogger’s most serious, mature, and ambitious feature is Kill Daddy Good Night (2009) aka Das Vaterspiel, which is based on the 2000 novel of the same name by Austrian writer Josef Haslinger. The somewhat strange story of a swarthy patricidal Viennese beta-male nerd who has dedicated his life to fine-tuning a videogame that he has created about killing his political minister father that ultimately finds himself renovating the Long Island basement apartment of an elderly Lithuanian Nazi war criminal after receiving a random phone-call from his hairless Alopecia-plagued college crush, Glawogger’s pathologically eccentric yet melancholic anti-daddy drama is quite possibly the most strange, quirky, and, quite thankfully, least sentimental holocaust-themed film ever made. In its stoic cynicism and complete and utter lack of sapless sentimentality, Kill Daddy Good Night ultimately lets the viewer now more about the reality of the holocaust than blockbuster ‘shoah classics’ like Schindler’s List (1993) ever could despite the fact that it does not depict a single atrocity scene, but more importantly the film is a story about the cultural plague of the death of masculinity and the resentment of fathers in the Occident, especially in the German-speaking world. Set on two different continents and telling two different yet ultimately inter-twinned stories that merge together in the end, Glawogger's work ultimately demonstrates how fathers and grandfathers can sometimes unwittingly seal the fates of their kids and grandkids in a most cataclysmic fashion that in no way can be foreseen.

 The reasonably swarthy and unkempt computer nerd protagonist of Kill Daddy Good Night has the nickname ‘Ratz’ (played by director Helmut Köpping, who also starred in Glawogger’s Slugs and Contact High) because he looks and sometimes acts like a rat, or so he reveals in a self-denigrating absurdist dream-sequence where he starts gnawing like a rabid rodent. Although he never really gives a good reason why, Ratz has more or less dedicated his life to hating his politician father ‘Kramer’ (comedian Christian Tramitz in a rare serious role) and has been assembling a videogame for some time that centers around killing his daddy in a rather violent gore-filled fashion.  In fact, Ratz is so obsessed with his game and his hatred for his father that he oftentimes imagines his daddy in videogame form following around, especially anytime he attempts to leave Vienna, as if to demonstrate that the protagonist may be able to physically runaway from his progenitor, but he will never escape his mind and influence.  As a less than handsome and rather socially awkward beta-male with a rather repellant attitude who spends most of his time on his computer ‘virtually killing’ his daddy, Ratz is not exactly a lady’s man, hence why he became the cuckold of a girl named Mimi (Sabine Timoteo of Matthias Glasner’s modern classic Der freie Wille (2006) aka The Free Will) when he was in college. A girl of Lithuanian stock who was born in Helsinki and eventually landed in Vienna after living in various different places, Mimi is a true cosmopolitan chameleon and like any good deracinated citizen of the world, she has a completely artificial personality and is not much more than an attractive cipher with a character that is not that much more intricate than that of one of the characters from Ratz's videogame. Since she suffers from Alopecia, which she later fully reveals to Ratz in a flashback scene where she gets completely naked and reveals that she has no fur on her beaver, Mimi likes to wear a different wig every single day, which can be seen as symbolic of her vapid existence as a constantly changing rootless cosmopolitan.  Indeed, in the modern world where no one has any true sense of individuality, physical appearance becomes a means to a sort of pseudo-individuality and Mimi's wigs probably make her feel like a bonafide individualist. When she first met Ratz in college, Mimi managed to convince him to paint an entire large room for her even though they were not dating, thus making her realize that she could trust the pathetic protagonist to do anything for her. Flash forward to November 1999, Mimi calls Ratz out of the blue after having not talked to him for years and asks him to immediately fly to New York City to refurnish her grandmother’s basement apartment. Unbeknownst to Ratz, Mimi’s Nazi war criminal grandfather is living in the basement and the protagonist is the only one she trusts to not let the cat out of the bag in regard to his big family secret. 

 Flash back to Ludwigsburg, Mai 1959, a Lithuanian-born Jew named Jonas Shtrom (Ulrich Tukur) that works as a journalist for the Chicago Tribune is giving recorded testimony regarding the extermination of his father and tons of other Jews by an ex-classmate named Algis Munkaitis who went to the same German language high school as him in a town the German-speaking majority called Memel. While Algis was apparently originally a Lithuanian nationalist who respected Jews, Jonas eventually lost contact with him after he changed schools and did not seem him again until he came to his apartment years later and rounded up his father and various other Jews to be exterminated. Jonas himself was later rounded up and put in a ghetto where he would see Algis again machine-gunning Jews down during the so-called ‘Grossaktion.’  As the viewer eventually discovers, Algis is Mimi’s grandfather and he has been going by the name Lucas (Itzhak Finzi) ever since fleeing Europe after World War II and moving to the United States where he started a fairly successful fishing business. Unfortunately for ‘Lucas,’ Jonas spotted him on a TV special about successful Chicago immigrants who had contributed much to their communities and has been trying to get him arrested ever since. Needless to say, Lucas has been hiding ever since Jonas revealed his true identity. 

 Due to the fact that all the flights from Vienna to NYC are full, Ratz must drive to Munich to catch a flight at a different airport, but before he does, he drops off his cat Alexander—a feline named in tribute to Lenin’s Czar-executed bolshevik revolutionary brother—at his alcoholic mother’s home. Clearly, one of the reasons Ratz hates his father so much is because he divorced his mother, who turned to dipsomania as a result, and married a vapid whore. Ratz also seems to hate his father because he is jealous that his slutty sister (Franziska Weisz) cares more about their dad than him.  As revealed in various repellant scenes, Ratz has deep incestuous feelings for his sister as demonstrated by the fact that he proposes having sex with her and even makes out with her, which she allows for a couple minutes before get thoroughly disgusted. Ironically, despite the fact his grandfather is a Dachau survivor, Ratz will ultimately find a father figure in the form of Nazi war criminal Lucas who, unlike his real father, is not a lying politician, but a man who fully confesses to personally liquidating about a thousand Jews and shows not the least bit of remorse about it. 

 When Ratz eventually arrives in NYC, he initially refuses to refurbish Mimi’s grandfather’s room after learning that the man he is supposed to help is a Nazi fugitive and all, but he eventually agrees when his ex(pseudo)girlfriend promises to use her influence to sell his “Kill Daddy, Good Night” videogame. Unfortunately, when Ratz meets with the prospective buyer of the game, the guys rejects it and gives the protagonist the rather insulting but oh-so true advice: “I know your generation, you grow up with doss and all that shit…programming all night, smoking weed and cracking code…lonesome cowboys. Get yourself a second life!,” adding, “You bring me a game about genocide. A nice fabulous wonderful game about genocide with blood and gore […] I can package it up all nice and pretty and sell the shit out of it. But you’re father, come on.” Ultimately, a sleazy porn-addicted Hebrew that works at the company that rejected Ratz’s game digs a demo copy of “Kill Daddy, Good Night” out of the trash at his work and gives the protagonist a call. Somewhat reluctantly, Ratz agrees to release his game on the guy’s website where it soon becomes a hit. 

 When Ratz first arrives at Mimi’s grandparent’s house in Long Island, Lucas refuses to talk but once he grows accustomed to the protagonist, he begins chatting him up. By the time Ratz finally finishes renovating the room, the protagonist and Lucas are good friends. Unfortunately, Mimi is not happy with this friendship and reveals to Ratz that she hates her grandfather and then hands him a thick dossier that includes a transcription of Jonas’ testimonial regarding Lucas' war crimes. After reading through it and learning his pal apparently killed tons of poor innocent Israelites, Ratz confronts Lucas, who has no problem coming to terms with his past. After stoically confessing that he personally gunned down about a thousand Yids, Lucas proudly states, “I did it of my own free will” and “I believed our extermination of the Jews was part of our struggle for survival…That was my conviction. I wanted to take responsibility for my convictions.” When Ratz asks Lucas if he still believes in the National Socialist worldview, he replies, “Yes…but history has decided against us. History has no remorse.” After making his confession, Lucas asks Ratz to do him the favor of finding his old Anton Diabelli record and playing it for him since it is Christmas time and he believes the Austrian Romantic composer was responsible for creating the most beautiful Christmas music of all the time. Unfortunately, Ratz soon has to fly back to Vienna because his much hated father has committed suicide. From his stepmother, Ratz learns that his father rarely talked about his emotions but that he once broke down and cried, “I’ve lost my son.” Needless to say, Lucas becomes ashamed of the fact that he is making tons of money off a videogame about killing his father, but being a pansy man-child, he does not even have the testicular fortitude to tell his slimy NYC business partner to take the game offline. In the end, it is obvious that Ratz did not resent his father simply because he was his father but because he was not ‘fatherly’ enough in that he was a weak and vain man that made a living bullshitting as opposed to living by real masculine principles and ideals that he actually believed in. Apparently, part of the reason Ratz’s father killed himself was because he was in so much debt despite giving off the appearance of being filthy rich, thus revealing he was a lying fraud.  During the last scene of the film, Ratz changes his “Kill Daddy, Good Night” game into a “Kill Ratz, Good Night” game and then proceeds to virtually kill himself.

 Unquestionably, Kill Daddy Good Night is an important and intriguing cinematic work in the sense that it is only one of a handful of films that attempts to explain why the progeny of so-called Generation X and subsequent generation are such weak and pathetic slackers that never quite seem to reach true adulthood. Rather revealingly, the protagonist of the film respects his grandfather and the Nazi war criminal because, unlike his father and himself, they are real men who live by their word and have strong ideals. Although it might not have been the director’s intention, the film depicts the death of masculinity of Europe, especially in the German-speaking world, as a direct result of the defeat of the Third Reich, which is especially made clear in a scene where Nazi war criminal Lucas states, “History has decided against us. History has no remorse.” Notably, the film also makes light of the fact that Jew Jonas lied about some important facts, with the most obvious being that his father was executed from being a Bolshevik and that it was only later that they started killing the rest of the Jews, thus reflecting how world Jewry has reinvented history to fit their own narrative of what is ‘good’ and ‘evil.’  Surely, had Germany won the war, so-called war criminals like Lucas would be considered heroes and certainly no one would care about who Anne Frank was.  After all, one man's genocide is another man's fight for survival, as reflected in the Israeli's belief that their ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is a wholly righteous act and that they are the true victims of towel-head terrorism.  Ultimately, Jew Jonas is symbolic of not just of how history always manages to catch up with someone, but also the persistent manner in which world Jewry hunts down its enemies until they are destroyed and their ancestor’s are so disgraced to the point of committing suicide or living a loser lifestyle. Indeed, the protagonist of Kill Daddy Good Night might not know it, but his rather misguided ‘quirky’ tendency to name his cats in tribute to Judeo-Bolshevik mass murderer Lenin and his pathological patricidal feelings are the direct result of an anti-European system that seeks to induce such feelings, just as Nazi War criminal Lucas never thought about the people he killed until people started accusing him of being a mass murderer. As indicated in the scene in the film where the videogame company representative tells the protagonist that games about genocide are hot and games about patricide are not, both morality and history are relative and Kill Daddy Good Night is ultimately a rare work that has the glorious gall to highlight that fact.  After all, if Uncle Adolf had won the war, it is dubious as to whether the Grand Theft Auto series would exist and that large legions of exceedingly emasculated Occidental men would be lurking in their parents' basements while wasting sixty hours or more a week playing such morally retarded videogames.

-Ty E

No comments: