An Austrian serial killer drama, similar in vain to classics like M and HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER. Many respected critics have dubbed it a masterpiece. Not me!
I know little about this 1983 film’s production and
distribution history, but am aware of the small but loyal
following it has amassed over the years. Just check out the
enthusiastic user comments on the IMDB, as well as a rave review
in a past issue of Shock Cinema. It was also a reported
inspiration on I STAND ALONE director
Gaspar Noe, who has
publicly expressed great adulation for the film.
ANGST (a.k.a. FEAR and SCHIZOPHRENIA) has a fair share
of admirers who tend to single out its innovative camerawork,
elegant simplicity, and unflinching realism. The last category
is the only one I really agree with; this film, set in real
time, is definitely gritty, and may be the least sensationalized
account of a serial killer ever. If nothing else, the
psycho on display here is definitely the most staggeringly inept
mass murderer I’ve seen in any film.
Elegant simplicity? Maybe, but there’s a fine line
between simplicity and sheer boredom and this film crosses it in
the first ten minutes. It follows a murderous spaz, just
released from an insane asylum, who breaks into a house and
murders a family. Like everything else he does, he manages to
bungle this task spectacularly; he massacres the house’s
occupants--an old woman, her invalid husband and their grown
daughter--but makes a horrendous mess while doing it.
Afterwards he drives erratically and acts weird in a bar, thus
alerting the law and sealing his fate. Norman Bates this guy
most definitely isn't.
ANGST is, so far as I know, the only film made by
director Gerald Kargl. His most notable contributions are the
innovative visuals, in particular the floating camera shots that
utilize a unique camera mount employed in SECONDS and MEAN
STREETS. This device attaches cameras to actors’ shoulders,
giving them (and us) a POV shot of themselves. The opening of
ANGST is actually fairly impressive, enhancing this much-used
device by introducing movement into it and drifting the camera
around the main actor’s head. Unfortunately Kargl vastly
overuses this innovation.
Many of ANGST’S technical elements are impressive,
including a nicely ominous music cue and some disturbingly
convincing gore FX--but they’re all blunted by overuse.
Watch any ten minutes of this film and you’ll think you’re
seeing something great...just don’t try sitting through the
There is something to be said, I guess, for the film’s
unwavering focus, but again, it grows tiresome quickly. The lack
of cutaways (voice-overs fill us in on the protagonist’s
horrendous life story), subplots or supporting characters means
we’re stuck watching a nerd who is neither complex, sympathetic
or even particularly menacing. The drawn-out murder sequences
are harrowingly graphic, but their impact is diminished by the
fact that the majority of the film consists of its main
character fumbling around (Jerry Lewis was never this
clumsy!). If ANGST ultimately proves anything, it’s the fallacy
of taking audiences into the minds of serial killers–this film
shows (intentionally or otherwise) that sometimes there just
isn’t much worth showing.
ANGST (a.k.a. FEAR; SCHIZOPHRENIA)
Director: Gerald Kargl
Screenplay: Gerald Kargl, Zbigniew Rybczynski
Cinematography: Zbigniew Rybczynski
Cast: Rudolf Gotz, Erwin Leder, Silvia Rabenreither, Edith Rosset