Angst (Gerald Kargl, 1983)
[note: review originally published 1Dec2008]
In many ways, Angst is a comedy, however black it may be; the film’s unnamed killer (based, supposedly, on German psychopath Werner Kniesek) has to be one of filmdom’s most incompetent. And this while fancying himself a fine specimen of moral decay, right up there with folks like Peter Kürten (from whom some of his narration is cribbed). It’s what a horror movie would be, were that horror movie written by Edward Murphy. Add to that the presence of the film’s humorous foil, a lazy, if observant, dachshund, and this could have been a movie to rank with the great gross-out comedies of all time (Eating Raoul comes to mind). What keeps it from ever slipping over the line into that sort of silliness is Oscar-winner Zbigniew Rybczynski’s consistently off-kilter camerawork. There is no point in this movie where the viewer doesn’t realize that something is dramatically off.
It has long been theorized that Gerald Kargl is, in fact, Rybczynski under another name (along with cinematographer, Rybczynski, who won his Oscar for directing the short “Tango”, is credited as co-writer), and it’s certainly the case that Angst resounds with Rybczynski’s favorite themes; obsession, confession, repetition (this latter reinforced subtly and effectively thanks to a score by Tangerine Dream frontman Klaus Schulze). Here we have a killer (Taxidermia‘s Erwin Leder), just released from prison, who finds himself with the uncontrollable urge to kill again. He’s spent the opening few minutes narrating to us the story of how he ended up in prison in the first place (for the second time). He finds himself with the perfect opportunity to kill again, bungles it, and flees to what he hopes is an abandoned house in the woods. It is not, however, which gives him the opportunity to take out his murderous impulses. Assuming, of course, he can work up the nerve to actually kill anyone.
To tell you exactly where this movie makes the leap from black comedy into the realm of the truly disturbing would be quite the spoiler, so I’ll just say that the killer’s first victim pushes the bounds of taste in a serial killer movie. This is where it could have crossed the line into hilarity, given a different treatment of the material, but the filmmakers allow the victim a sort of pathetic dignity that renders the scene painful to watch. From then on, the movie treads this line between the silly and the shocking admirably, always staying just far enough on the shocking side that it’s obvious this was a conscious decision by the filmmakers. Kargl (if he exists) and Rybczynski have created a minor gem here, though probably not one that would be appreciated by those weak of stomach. Tough to find, but worth seeking out. ****