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Director: Eckhart Schmidt
Writers: Eckhart Schmidt
Cast: Désirée Nosbusch, Bodo Steiger, Simone Brahmann |
Length: 93 min
Label: Mondo Macabre
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1:85:1
Audio: German: DTS-HD Master 1.0, English: DTS-HD Master 1.0
- Interview with Eckhart Schmidt
- Booklet with Essay and Information about the film, cast, and crew
Just as the title suggests Eckhart Schmidt’s The Fan (1982) (released in English as Trance) focuses on the basic plot of an obsessed teen pop fan, Simone (Desiree Nosbusch), who is smitten with electro-pop artist “R” (Bodo Staiger). This is where the simplicity of the narrative ends. Schmidt employs his love for music and art to make something of a statement piece with this rare example of 80’s West German horror, but then this isn’t a run of the mill, bunny boiler epic as one might expect from its synopsis. The tone and tempo owe a huge debt to the dreamy and surreal electro-pop/ Krautrock soundscape that the director utilizes so brilliantly throughout. Instead of building a canvass that distorts and amplifies the delirium and hysteria that can stem from ‘fandom,’ Schmidt is far more subtle in his vision. This makes The Fan a difficult film to summarise for its dreamlike quality.
The film seems detached from its peers; existing in a fantasy twilight world that accurately reflects its lead’s failing psyche, Simone. However, to be fair, when it comes to West German horror of the 1980s there is little to compare. Genre film was hardly a booming concern during this period, apart from the D.I.Y splatter wave to burst out of the later stages of the decade — the charge led by filmmakers like Buttgereit and Schnaas. The Austrian German-language film Angst (1983), a year later, does share some common traits — as does Nekromantik (1987) in its own way — with The Fan, but stylistically they couldn’t be any further apart. Certain themes — the needing to belong, mental illness, dark obsession, and transgressive sexual elements — do, however, appear to be a key factor for all the narratives involved. Because The Fan is so different to anything else in the wider genre boundaries at the time, it becomes not only an important piece of cult film for its era, but one that certainly deserves far more attention than it seems to have attracted in the past. However, this has more to do with a lack of widespread distribution in English speaking territories than anything contained within this dark-hearted little gem of a film. In the UK, for instance, the film did have a (cut) VHS release in the past, and played at Schlachtfest — a festival of Underground German films — in 1994, but little has been heard of it since. This makes the new Mondo Macabro release a very vital one indeed for restoring the film’s status as a cult classic.The otherworldly mood for The Fan is derived from the performances at play. Desiree Nosbusch, as the anodyne Simone, provides the perfect centerpiece; playing out her part almost devoid of obvious emotion for most of the running time. Yet an undercurrent of crazed obsession bubbles beneath the surface — before exploding in explicit style — and this lends Nosbusch’s character a quality and depth that makes for a mesmerizing watch. The actress’ striking looks make her appear like a model that has slipped straight from the pages of a teen magazine — circa 1982. Her performance is one of detached cool, that gives the air of anything can happen, and it does it in quite an unorthodox fashion. In this way, the character of Simone feels almost alien to her environment; reflecting her detachment to the world around her as the nature of the delusion heightens: she moves away from peers, school, and parents, eventually becoming more and more engrossed in her own private fantasy world. In the throes of mental illness, the girl starts to believe that she is in a relationship with R. She writes to him. We learn her innermost thoughts through the narration of these letters. She starts to fantasize others are colluding to keep her from her lover — the secretary throwing away her letters, or blaming (and unleashing violence) on the postal staff, thinking they might be responsible for the lack of communication from her imagined beau. We see this reflected in her daydreams. All the time Simone reads messages into the lyrical content of R’s work; envisioning that somehow he is speaking to her in this way. Until her lack of contact drives her to run away and into the arms of her imaginary lover — where she is greeted by the egotistical star as a potential groupie and treated as such; an action which spells catastrophic results for the pair.
Nosbusch is pinnacle to the piece, being in almost every frame; a demanding role for such a young actress, but one that she seems to pull off effortlessly. There are some awkward scenes and plenty of nudity for both Nosbusch and her co-star, real life musician Bodo Staiger, but it is handled with the right atmosphere and mood. Staiger, who appears as the mysterious pop star R, gives the piece some authenticity as an actual musician. While his role is limited somewhat, he does promote the perfect cool, almost robotic, aura. Talking of the cast, cult film fans might want to keep an eye out for Krimi favourite Joachim Fuchsberger, who appears in a small cameo as a TV presenter.The basic story originated as a comic in a fanzine that Eckhart Schmidt edited, and it keeps to quite a simplistic format in film form, despite the scope for deeper analysis it offers. The director made this piece early on in a career that would become hugely prolific in his home country. The Fan is one of the films for which he is most remembered but not always for the right reasons. Critics at the time were not pleased with it. Problems with censorship saw that the feature was originally made with a false ending, which was then later cut in theatre projection booths. Meanwhile legal controversy surrounding Nosbusch wanting certain scenes cut from the piece caused further chaos in the post-production period. Although Nosbusch lost her battle in court, she would later describe the film as a less than positive experience in interviews. However, with all this left as nothing but a distant memory, what remains is a cracking piece of early 80’s psychological horror with a very dark edge. It is worth mentioning the piece is heavily stylized — in tune with the director’s obvious knowledge and love for the music of the period. The slick look, complete with stripped down color palette, genuine 80’s fashion, and omnipresent electronic fueled soundscape, presents something of a time capsule for the era that never feels overly cheesy. While the film’s horrific punchline makes for something that resonates long after viewing.
In Mondo Macabro’s restoration for Blu-ray, the print doesn’t present any damage. DNR and edge sharpening are not a concern either. While not overly detailed — in line with the way the film appears to have been shot — there is a very soft grain present. Detail is clear, if not particularly sharp, and colors (although this isn’t a highly colored film) are well contrasted and natural. The overall presentation gives us a very natural, organic impression, and an equal quality transfer to DVD is also included as well.
The audio is free from damage or flaw. The constant musical soundscape versus dialogue is mixed to perfect levels. The dialogue never feels drowned out, while the music presents a nice depth. The film is presented in its original German language with English subtitles. There is also an English dub audio option, although the tone of this is rather more dramatic and emotional sounding than the German track thus altering the mood slightly. This is especially true for Simone’s narration which presents itself as more intense and giddy in tone than Nosbusch’s performance conveys on the screen.
The disc comes with an interview with the director, Schmidt, talking about his experience of making the film alongside the post-production issues. The director talks about the film with great enthusiasm in this generous interview, and also gives the opportunity for analyzing the deeper context. Most importantly he brings up the political connotations hidden in his narrative that were designed to examine Nazi Germany and the relationship that German people of the time had with their leader Adolf Hitler; the director using The Fan and the Idol as metaphors to explore this dynamic and explore the theme on a more abstract level.
Utterly unique, highly memorable, The Fan is a delightful and rare piece of West German horror that deserves a place in the genre archives as a cult classic. Now that it is faithfully restored and presented on Blu-ray by Mondo Macabro, hopefully the film can reach a larger audience in English speaking territories than it has been able to in the past. Highly recommended to all lovers of 80’s, Euro-cult and psychological horror.