By Sascha Krieger
Der Goldene Handschuh (Competition / Germany, France / Director: Fatih Akin)
Fatih Akin’s new film is based on Heinz Strunk’s novel about Fritz Honka, a notorious serial killer in the Hamburg of the 1970s. Disfigured by an accident, Honka drifts along the lowest echelons of society, the drinkers and prostitutes, the drifters and the down-and-out, the cast-away and the forgotten. Akin dives into this hidden world, this underbelly of affluence, this sewer of flushed-out people with all he has. He recreates it, particularly the eponymous Hamburg pub and Honka’s apartment, with a love for detail that is only outweighed by an obsession with ugliness. Drearier, dirtier, grittier interiors have rarely been seen. And then, there’s Jonas Dassler, a 22-year-old rising star transformed into slouching, leering 35-year-old Honka. His sweaty, greasy-haired face in the film’s beacon, in it, all the lust, the cruelty, the misogyny, the insecurity, the despair of this collateral damage of German post-war reconstruction. The film opens with a long-drawn-out to get rid of a body, contains several acts of violence, including various very graphic murder. Doing so, it touches on the horrifying as well as on the absurd and the funny. The inhabitants of the pub are mostly caricatures and even Honka’s crimes contain an element of the blackest of humours. In its better moments, the film paints an impressive portrait of a stratum of society that pays the price for others‘ affluence as well as an intriguing profile of a man driven by uncontrollable impulses and fueled by a sense of entitlement not totally absent in today’s men either. Unfortunately, the film is also a little too much in love with its extremes, the ugliness, the violence, the show effects which blur the perspective and increasingly turn a brightly coloured study into more of a circus act, dragging out the spectacular far longer than necessary and at times coming close to betraying some of its characters, especially the women, in the process. The half-heartedly added side story about a teenage boy’s adolescent struggles and his attempts to charm a girl he fancies, in the book, a mirror of the main story, are wasted here. In the end, Der Goldene Handschuh does not quite live up to the high expectations, mostly because it wants to please, impress and entertain too much.