Thursday, June 14, 2018

Der Fan (1982)

... aka: Blood Groupie
... aka: Fan, The
... aka: Trance

Directed by:
Eckhart Schmidt

Teenager Simone (Désirée Nosbusch) is obsessed with internationally-famous pretty boy New Wave pop star 'R' (Bodo Staiger). She wears his t-shirt, has posters of him on her walls and listens to his music all day, every day, analyzing each of his lyrics. She writes to him frequently and meets the mailman at the post office every single morning expecting a letter back. It has yet to arrive. She fantasizes about him kissing her but makes do with a life-sized decal of him on her bedroom wall for the time being. Even though they've never met, she thinks they share a bond and he writes his music just for her. As for all of the other women who show up with him in magazines? Well, they're only after his money but he already knows that, sleeps with them and then shows them the door. That's because he's biding his time waiting for someone just like Simone. She is the only one who truly understands him, truly loves him and can truly make him happy. If only he'd write her back.

Simone's obsession has already crossed the boundary into unhealthy and is causing her all kinds of problems in real life. She keeps ditching school, refuses to do her homework and refuses to take tests. She doesn't get along with her parents and barely acknowledges them. She completely ignores her former boyfriend. She even attacks the postman (Klaus Münster) because she has it in her mind that he's hiding R's response letter back to her. Either that or her mother (Helga Tölle) has confiscated it. In one of her letters, she asks 'R' to blink at her during a live TV variety show performance as a signal to her but her father (Jonas Vischer), who keeps threatening to send her to a boarding school if she doesn't shape up, switches the channel before he's even through singing. If only everyone wasn't conspiring to keep them apart.

The troubled girl has even worked out a worst case scenario in her head. If he refuses to acknowledge her and / or she's unable to find him, she plans on jumping from a tower with a note written to him so he'll be forced to at least think about her from time to time and thus she'll always remain a part of him. But that's only if she somehow can't get to him. No longer trusting anyone, she secretly gets her own P.O. Box and decides to wait one more week for the letter. If it doesn't come she's decided to  finally "take action" and go after what she wants. Needless to say, a letter doesn't arrive.

Now with plans to go all the way to Munich, Simone runs away from home. She gets a ride from a lecherous old man but ditches him when he tries to rape her in the back seat. Finally making it to the city, she starts watching the activities outside of a TV station every day. There, actors, singers and other celebrities pull up in fancy cars to be greeted by fans seeking autographs. Sometimes the celebs even select a fan and take them into the studio so they can watch the taping. Simone shows up there every day hoping 'R' will come back to perform on "Top Pop." She finally gets her wish. 'R' does show up and her first reaction to a face-to-face with him is to pass out.

Simone's taken into the studio, where she receives a surprising amount of attention from the singer. At first, we think he pities her or thinks it's cute she was so overwhelmed by him or he's just being a decent person, but the truth soon comes to light. To him she's just another groupie. They come there all the time. And he takes them to wherever he happens to be staying, has some fun and is then on his merry fan. After his mannequin-themed music video wraps, he gets into an argument with his manager, his PR man and his miserable-looking secretary April (Simone Brahmann), who seems to be secretly in love with him, and runs off with Simone. He takes her to a flat owned by a friend, where the two have sex and Simone confesses her undying love and dedication to him. He reacts to that by immediately trying to bolt; throwing her a bone by telling her he'll "try" to come back and see her in a few months and "try" to call her. We all know how that would work out. This time, however, he's picked the wrong girl.

A slow-building shocker, this isn't for an instant gratification audience as it makes one wait until the last 30 minutes for the more overt horror sequences. However, everything leading up to that is just as - if not more - interesting. This makes for a neat contrast to other movies dealing with celebrity and the music industry, which are almost always told from the perspective of the artist. Typically, the fans themselves are portrayed as vapid, brainless, shrieking nuisances on the sidelines so it's refreshing seeing a movie told entirely from the other perspective... even if that perspective also happens to be twisted! We get to hear Simone's thoughts and fantasies throughout (warped as those may be) in a voice-over, as well as what motivates her as she searches for a way to keep 'R' with her forever.

The director has stated this was meant to draw parallels between unhealthy celebrity worship and how Germans are still haunted by, and thus still infatuated with, Hitler and National Socialism. These two themes are frequently merged, like when a shot of the music star is superimposed over a picture of Nazis saluting Hitler, but they're also not overt nor forced upon viewers. Ignoring them altogether we're still left with a dark, fascinating little film about obsession and teenage isolation.

Staiger, in what appears to be his only film role, was likely cast because he actually was the lead singer of a moderately successful New Wave / synth-pop group called Rheingold, who also do all the music for the film. The songs are available on the band's 1982 MiniAlbum Fan Fan Fanatic. Nosbusch went on to have a successful acting career in Germany and even appeared in a few English-language films and TV shows using the name "Desiree Becker." The actress, who was 16-years-old at the time of filming, ended up taking the director to court to try to force him to remove some of the nude shots of her but was unsuccessful. Former krimi star Joachim Fuchsberger also appears very briefly on a TV set.

There were home video releases in the UK (on VHS and DVD, and both cut), Germany, Netherlands, Japan (it became a favorite of real-life cannibal Issei Sagawa!) and some other countries but this eluded the U.S. for decades. That all changed in 2015 when Mondo Macabro finally released it uncut on DVD and Blu-ray. It's uncut and comes with German and English audio tracks, two essays (one about the film and one about German New Wave music) and a 20-minute interview with the director.

Director Schmidt would go on to make other genre films like Das Gold der Liebe (1983; "The Gold of Love"), Loft (1985) and E.T.A. Hoffmanns Der Sandmann (1993; "The Sandman"). None of these were officially released in America nor as widely distributed as this one.

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