QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM BERLIN
The filmmaker Fatih Akin was born in Hamburg in 1973 to Turkish parents. He is best remembered for politically-charged dramas and thrillers, such as 2017’s In The Fade and 2004’s Head On (the last German film to win the Golden Bear). He has now directed a gruesome serial killer story with little emotional depth and virtually no political connotation. The Golden Glove recreates the story to Fritz Honka, who killed at least four prostitutes in the Red Light District of the city where the director was born, between 1970 and 1975.
The film title refers to a local watering hole populated mostly by older prostitutes and drunkards. Fritz (or “Fiete”, as he was affectionately called by punters) is a regular, too. A man nicknamed “Anus” serves the peculiar clientele. These people look like they came straight outta hell without a wash. Or from a painting by John Currin. Their faces contorted with alcohol and drugs use, their mouths foul with obscenity and depravity. A place where you would never take your mum. Or your daughter. Or anyone else.
Honka himself is the picture of ugliness. Crossed-eyed, teeth crooked and with a hunchback. He has a lisp, and his speech is hardly intelligible at times. He seems to have learning difficulties. A female punter puts it succinctly: “I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire”. He’s not your average serial killer. Unlike Lars Von Trier’s Jack, he has no acute intelligence and perceived sense of superiority. Unlike the Argentinean angel Carlitos, he has no wit and sex appeal. He is driven by his immediate urges, and he doesn’t seem to plan his actions very carefully. He is not seeking a place in history, in the dubious pantheon of evil killers. He doesn’t seem to aspire anything at all. He’s the epitome of mediocrity.
The Golden Glove is a dirty comedy. This is more or less what you would get if Divine from Pink Flamingos (John Waters, 1972) met Fritz Harmaan from The Tenderness of the Wolves (Ulli Lommel, 1973). The attic flat where Honka dwells and lures his victims is so dirty that it’s hardly habitable. Honka hides the body parts in the chimney. The place smells of decaying flesh, and Honka justifies the stink by blaming the downstairs neighbours from Greece, “guest workers who don’t work” and who “constantly make soup”. The sex scenes are anti-erotic, violent revulsive. Yet, there is something credible about the film. The real pictures of Honka’s flat shown during the final credits suggest that Akin wasn’t too far off from recreating the original environment. Some people are very dirty indeed.
There is, however, one calming and soothing aspect about The Golden Glove: the soundtrack consists entirely of old Schlager classics (cheesy German chanson). I’ll be buying it as soon as it comes out. A prostitute is brought to tears by one of the tunes. Lale Andersen’s Ein Schiff Wird Kommen (“A Ship Will come”) provides some redemption to these lost and destitute soul. The music is puerile. In a way, Honka too is puerile. Fritz Honka is a dirty and twisted Willy Wonka.
Ultimately, The Golden Glove is plain wrong and wittingly so. It’s gruesome and hilarious in equal measures. A fitting tribute to bad taste.
The Golden Glove is showing in competition at the 69th Berlinale. Most people I spoke to did not share my feelings about the film (not everyone likes it dirty), and it’s probably just too controversial for the much-coveted Golden Bear.