Dir. Oskar Roehler. Germany. 2002. 91mins.
Too much navel-gazing and too little perspective will make Oskar Roehler's formulaic psycho-drama a hard sell, at home as well as abroad. Unlike his earlier, award-winning Nowhere To Go, which put the tragedy of a disillusioned woman writer in a larger socio-political context, the demise of East Germany, this feature takes as its theme a playwright who has only one concern in life, his own sexual identity and the anguish it causes him. Wallowing in his misery, devoid of the slightest trace of humour and agonising over the difficulty of finding a solution, Roehler's film looks dated, a sort of private therapeutic session that might benefit the central character but has little to offer for a general audience. X-Verleih releases Angst, which played in competition in Berlin, in Germany on April 24.
The film opens on a wild screaming contest between Robert (Andre Hennicke) and his girlfriend, Maria (Marie Baumer), a doctor specialising in children diseases. The pair have not had sex together for six months due to his psychological hang-ups. She finds the situation intolerable. he claims he cannot help it but still loves her. Adding to Robert's sense of guilt, is the fact that his father has cancer and only a short time to live. He is incapable of shouldering the responsibility of taking care of him: when he decides to, it is too late.
Back home, he chaotically moves through one day after another: attending rehearsals of his next play in which a naked cast screams its anguish at an ageing actress in a wheelchair; visiting alternately a shrink and prostitutes to solve his sexual problems; and trying to keep his relationship with Maria going just a bit longer. At one point he even takes his partner to the psychiatrist with him in a scene that could, in different circumstances, have been a great parody on psychoanalysis - but not here.
Most of the story is seen through the tormented man's eyes, and naturally, being as self-centered as he is, he lacks the necessary sensitivity to see the emotional abyss he is pushing his partner into, until it is almost too late.
Roehler's script sets the rules in the opening sequence but fails to go anywhere after that, conveying most of the essential information here and only elaborating later on. There is no clear suggestion at the end of the film, despite the many all too familiar cliches pulled out along the way - including cancer, AIDS, abortion, history of suicide attempts, animal cruelty - that the situation between Robert and Maria has changed significantly enough to justify the ending provided by the script. Everything is spelled out in detail, as if there are any doubts about whether the message, such as it is, would travel any other way.
The acting, certainly that of Andre Hennicke, whose gloomy expression varies between terrible pain and temperamental tantrums, contributes to this effect. Marie Baumer plays Maria as a compassionate, well balanced person, likeable as such, but with little in her performance to prepare for her final act of despair. As for Roehler regular Vadim Glowna (Nowhere To Go), he proves a natural for the part of the dying father.
Prods: Neue Bioskop Film
Ger dist: X-Verleih
Int'l sales: Telepool
Prods: Eberhard Junkersdorf, Dietmar Guntsche
Cinematography: Hagen Bogdanski
Ed: Uli Schon
Music: Martin Todsharow
Cast: Andre Hennicke, Marie Baumer, Vadim Glowna, Hilde van Meghem, Hermann Beyer, Jutta Hoffman, Christoph Waltz