Film Spotlight: Angst 

This Wednesday and Saturday, Cleveland Cinemas will screen the banned '80s Austrian thriller, Angst, at the Capitol Theatre. Angst means "fear" in German, but be not afraid of this jostling first-person portrait of a psychotic serial killer who, the moment he's released from a 10-year prison sentence, plans and executes his next violent crime. Be curious.

The film was never released theatrically and was censored across Europe for its excessive violence. But try not to be deterred on that score: Though there are certainly scenes of discomfort in the film, and one gruesome encounter, the violence pales in comparison to some of the shit we see on a weekly basis in Game of Thrones.

Director Gerald Kargl (who, due to financing woes, never made another film) and cinematographer Zbigniew Rybczyski understand that blood and guts aren't the only way to visually communicate depravity. Indeed, the most unpleasant shot in the film has nothing to do with murder. It's a close-up of our sadist masticating on a German sausage. GUH-ross.

And the real discomfort arises not out of the images themselves, but the fact that we're seeing them, in large part, through the psychopath's eyes. He is played by the rail-thin, bug-eyed Austrian actor Erwin Leder, who bears a striking resemblance to GOT's Theon Greyjoy and who narrates his sick desires via dispassionate voice-over:

"The idea of showing her the corpses excited me enormously," and so on.

Everything "excites this guy enormously," and we're right there with him, watching him twitch with anticipatory glee as he comes upon a secluded home in the woods and easily invades. He does his thing with the family, an elderly mother, a physically and mentally handicapped adult son, and an ingenue-ish daughter. But this psychopath — who acknowledges that he is terrified of himself even as he prepares to kill a guy in a wheelchair — is by no means a methodical or precise killer. His designs are always impulsive, reactionary, fueled by huge and often sexual urges.

And Angst is unique among serial killer films in that it devotes a great deal of screen time to the aftermath of the deed(s), the cleanup and next steps, as it were. And the camera follows it all, swooping and jerking and getting up dramatically close in what feels like a precursor to the shaky cam style. Good option for horror or Euro film buffs.


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