Saturday, July 2, 2011

Talk, stalk and one smoking barrel


Schussangst (Gun-shy) 2003 Tatfilm Germany (101 minutes) directed and cowritten by Dito Tsintsadze, from the novel Schussangst by Dirk Kurbjuweit.
She is the first woman you see on the Schnellbahn, but you may not remember her when she turns up several days later on the same tramway line and drops a note in the protagonist’s lap that says: ‘Help me!’
Isabella (Lavinia Wilson) is mysterious and attractive, more alluring than movie-star beautiful. Her premeditation suggests that the protagonist, Lukas Eiserbeck (Fabian Hinrichs), is an ideal mark.
But a mark for what purpose?
Lukas is a lonely, thoughtful young man who lives by himself in Halle, delivers meals for the government daily meal service to needy and elderly people as an alternative to national military duty, and sculls alone on the river for exercise. The story unfolds from his point of view. Lukas came to Halle from ‘a small town’ to be in ‘the big city.’
It turns out that Lukas’ father, who left his mother when he was small, lives in Halle with his new family, though Lukas is not in contact with him and his father does not know that Lukas is there.
Other than Frau Sieveking (Ingeborg Westphal), an aging prostitute who offers him sex for half price, most of the people to whom Lukas delivers meals live in dreary isolation: one old woman shares her meals with her lapdog and another hanged herself. Lukas does not seem interested in socializing with coworkers his age, nor they with him.
Isabella appears like a bolt from the blue. She speaks frankly and humorously with Lukas about sex and asks to go home with him. This sets in motion a passacaglia that swings from tease to intimacy to tease, with Lukas trying to follow her capricious leading steps.
‘No of course I don’t want to have sex with you!’ he says, acting shocked with himself (though nearly jumping out of his skin) after she has taken her first long bath in his apartment and teases him for wanting to ‘fuck’ her when he tries gently to snuggle with her sitting next to him on his bed with fresh damp hair, in a tee shirt and panties.
Isabella has father issues of her own. Her stepfather, Romberg (Johan Leysen), a motivational speaker, has had sex with her since she was an adolescent. She does kendo, a Japanese fencing discipline, to ‘learn not to move your heart. To keep control. Not to run away, even if it sometimes hurts,’ she tells Lukas.
Isabella’s push-and-pull bewilders Lukas. After he sees Romberg having rough sex with Isabella after-hours at the gym where she does kendo, he drinks too much, sneaks a scull out on the river at night and wrecks it. This attracts the attention of Johanssen, a cheerfully obnoxious policeman (Christoph Waltz—six years later the merry sadist Colonel Hans Landa of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds), who keeps popping up as though a stand-in for Lukas’ bad conscience.
Lukas understands only that Romberg is the source of the hurt Isabella feels, which causes her distance from him. He sets about to remedy this. He obtains a silenced high-powered rifle with a scope and hollow-tip bullets from a garrulous underworld Albanian (Lasha Bakradze) who claims that he taught himself German by reading two Thomas Mann novels 20-30 times.
When Lukas tells an elderly man and former Wehrmacht sniper (Rudolf W. Marwitz) to whom he delivers meals that he is having problems hitting targets, the man tells him how to breathe.
‘But I always close my eyes just before I pull the trigger,’ Lukas says.
‘Ach, schussangst ist diese,’ the man replies. Snipers he served with during the war (though he was grievously injured while parachuting into Crete and never shot at anyone) had the same problem. It means one is gun-shy, afraid to shoot, he says.
‘I am not afraid,’ Lukas says. He gets reinforcement—and the story sets up for its dénouement—when he attends one of Romberg’s talks.
            ‘Besiege deine Angst,’ Romberg exhorts his audience—Conquer your fear. ‘When something stands in the way of your happiness, then rip it out of the way. Kill it…’
This is a nicely put-together movie, told in pictures that keep one’s eyes busy. The narrative flows smoothly from scene to scene, providing enough information to keep one curious about what comes next.
The characters hold a viewer’s attention because they have interesting, expressive faces and always seem to be in motion. Isabella reveals little about herself, but in a scene after one of her baths at Lukas’ apartment in which she may reveal the most, she is talking to Lukas in another room while lying on the bed, but the camera is turned 45°, giving the effect that she is speaking to Lukas rather than answering his questions to the ceiling.Schussangst (Gun-shy) 2003 Tatfilm Germany (101 minutes) directed and cowritten by Dito Tsintsadze, from the novel Schussangst by Dirk Kurbjuweit.
She is the first woman you see on the Schnellbahn, but you may not remember her when she turns up several days later on the same tramway line and drops a note in the protagonist’s lap that says: ‘Help me!’
Isabella (Lavinia Wilson) is mysterious and attractive, more alluring than movie-star beautiful. Her premeditation suggests that the protagonist, Lukas Eiserbeck (Fabian Hinrichs), is an ideal mark.
But a mark for what purpose?
Lukas is a lonely, thoughtful young man who lives by himself in Halle, delivers meals for the government daily meal service to needy and elderly people as an alternative to national military duty, and sculls alone on the river for exercise. The story unfolds from his point of view. Lukas came to Halle from ‘a small town’ to be in ‘the big city.’
It turns out that Lukas’ father, who left his mother when he was small, lives in Halle with his new family, though Lukas is not in contact with him and his father does not know that Lukas is there.
Other than Frau Sieveking (Ingeborg Westphal), an aging prostitute who offers him sex for half price, most of the people to whom Lukas delivers meals live in dreary isolation: one old woman shares her meals with her lapdog and another hanged herself. Lukas does not seem interested in socializing with coworkers his age, nor they with him.
Isabella appears like a bolt from the blue. She speaks frankly and humorously with Lukas about sex and asks to go home with him. This sets in motion a passacaglia that swings from tease to intimacy to tease, with Lukas trying to follow her capricious leading steps.
‘No of course I don’t want to have sex with you!’ he says, acting shocked with himself (though nearly jumping out of his skin) after she has taken her first long bath in his apartment and teases him for wanting to ‘fuck’ her when he tries gently to snuggle with her sitting next to him on his bed with fresh damp hair, in a tee shirt and panties.
Isabella has father issues of her own. Her stepfather, Romberg (Johan Leysen), a motivational speaker, has had sex with her since she was an adolescent. She does kendo, a Japanese fencing discipline, to ‘learn not to move your heart. To keep control. Not to run away, even if it sometimes hurts,’ she tells Lukas.
Isabella’s push-and-pull bewilders Lukas. After he sees Romberg having rough sex with Isabella after-hours at the gym where she does kendo, he drinks too much, sneaks a scull out on the river at night and wrecks it. This attracts the attention of Johanssen, a cheerfully obnoxious policeman (Christoph Waltz—six years later the merry sadist Colonel Hans Landa of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds), who keeps popping up as though a stand-in for Lukas’ bad conscience.
Lukas understands only that Romberg is the source of the hurt Isabella feels, which causes her distance from him. He sets about to remedy this. He obtains a silenced high-powered rifle with a scope and hollow-tip bullets from a garrulous underworld Albanian (Lasha Bakradze) who claims that he taught himself German by reading two Thomas Mann novels 20-30 times.
When Lukas tells an elderly man and former Wehrmacht sniper (Rudolf W. Marwitz) to whom he delivers meals that he is having problems hitting targets, the man tells him how to breathe.
‘But I always close my eyes just before I pull the trigger,’ Lukas says.
‘Ach, schussangst ist diese,’ the man replies. Snipers he served with during the war (though he was grievously injured while parachuting into Crete and never shot at anyone) had the same problem. It means one is gun-shy, afraid to shoot, he says.
‘I am not afraid,’ Lukas says. He gets reinforcement—and the story sets up for its dénouement—when he attends one of Romberg’s talks.
            ‘Besiege deine Angst,’ Romberg exhorts his audience—Conquer your fear. ‘When something stands in the way of your happiness, then rip it out of the way. Kill it…’
This is a nicely put-together movie, told in pictures that keep one’s eyes busy. The narrative flows smoothly from scene to scene, providing enough information to keep one curious about what comes next.
The characters hold a viewer’s attention because they have interesting, expressive faces and always seem to be in motion. Isabella reveals little about herself, but in a scene after one of her baths at Lukas’ apartment in which she may reveal the most, she is talking to Lukas in another room while lying on the bed, but the camera is turned 45°, giving the effect that she is speaking to Lukas rather than answering his questions to the ceiling.

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