There’s a general feel about 1983. That the commercial film world took its foot off the gas to some degree. I mean, there were some genuinely moving stories. There were films that excelled technically. And what seems to be as per usual, a stream of international cinema slipping through the net. Some, dare I say it, many of you have not even heard of 35 years on, let alone seen. Angst is one such black sheep. Riddled with the grotesque, feelings of inevitable dread, and that can’t-look-must-look nervous reaction by default.
The man, the protagonist, of the the film has no name that we discover. But he is no Clint Eastwood that’s for sure. What we learn instead from this man is his nature, that he is compelled to inflict violence on people, and enjoy it. Throughout Angst, we hear his mind’s inner, repressed thoughts via voice-over. The first words we hear as he prepares to leave prison, “The fear in her eyes and the knife in the chest. That’s my last memory of my mother.”, tell us all we need to know. He talks of his urge to harm and torture others, planning his next opportunity. His mind wandering to an assaulted ex-girlfriend, or the fear of his childhood. And now, he wants his victims to fear him: “The thought that I could have the corpses with me all the time excited me tremendously.”
Leaving prison, the camera already swaying as if attached to him, those unsteady, spontaneous movements. The man is a peculiar fellow, as strides off with his clothes that appear ever so slightly too large for him – or rather make his stand out amidst a world that has since changed to him. When he frequents a coffee shop, and eats a huge sausage, with his hands, nothing else, the close-ups of the scoffing only increase our own anxious anticipation. The eyes of the two pretty young women watching him.
Angst wastes little time in becoming even more disorientating. We are not at this stage of the narrative of his destination. Or, indeed, what his intentions might be now he is a free man. I mean, sure, his psychotic ramblings feed us the tone of his potential, but to where or whom is an eerie mystery for now. All hell breaks loose when he looks like he is going to strangle the female cab driver with his shoes laces – an impulse so diverting from any intended destination. The editing cuts are so haphazard, as the camera sticks to him like glue, following his motions as he runs off. He wanders aimlessly, a kind of live-wire amidst a relaxed casual exterior.
When he comes to a house, the desolateness of which he narrates with relish, he starts snooping around like a hungry cat. Once he punches a window through, after a couple of attempts, the next level of his madness, and the majority of the film’s setting, comes into play. Seeming pretty remote indoors too, the man grabs a knife from the kitchen, and encounters a man in a wheelchair, with food dribbling from his mouth. Assuming he is no threat, nor a priority, the creepo leaves him to explore more of the house – which is deceptivly large I might add.
The camera whirls around him, shaky, making us dizzy in the process. Affording us the unsteady replication of some kind of psychotic energy. Not quite in the mind of a madman, but certainly pushing and shoving us to some degree that we can unfortunately imagine ourselves in his stinking shoes. He is aware of his own lunacy, but that savage thirst for harm means he sees this as a need rather than a condition.
A car pulls up, and two women – one elderly, one young, and a little doggy – enter the house. The dog runs up the stairs, sensing the potential danger. The man, without a plan or control of his urges, first tries to escape the habitat, clumsily fails, unable to find an unlocked door, and knocking the man over out of his wheelchair. Instinctively, he drags the young woman – taping her to a door handle by her leg. This fuckwit is clearly no professional, and that makes him all the more scarier.
He then tussles with the old woman, a struggle that would be comical if it was not so disturbing. Especially when her false teeth are knocked out. She escapes his clutches, but he comes back for more, eventually managing to just about restrain her with bits of clothing scatted about. An extremely uncomfortable experience for the audience too. The man from the wheelchair, who appears to be mute too, begins a laborious crawl up the stairs. A ringing telephone lingers for what seems like ages. The maniac is losing his grip. He manages to get to the bathroom, drags the helpless man into the bath of water – with great difficulty once again.
The man’s reckless, clueless nature is beyond alarming. His movements, as well as the ridiculously innovative camerawork, are all over the place, mimicking human motions more accurately than may be first realized. When he attempts to move the young woman through the house, it is by shoving her across the floor like a toddler trying to move a couch. And she is a slight woman, although struggling, but he is just a fucking imbecile.
The unpredictable horror, the blood-churning actions, build throughout. Moments like him feeding the comatose, open mouthed old lady pills, or as the young woman hides, he squats around the house with his knife calling her: “You. You? You!”, are pretty terrifying images. And still to come, there’s a brutal stabbing so graphic, you can almost feel the slashes and the plunges. His expression is crazed, hers quickly becoming lifeless, blood projecting all over. He even makes himself vomit after he gets on top of her, kissing her blood-soaked corpse. And there he falls asleep, with his pants halfway down his legs.
The twisted acts of self-satisfaction are fucked up beyond all recognition. The soulless human being cleans himself up and the carnage he created, his voice still ranting on about his troubled past or exciting present. He later returns to the coffee place, the same girls there, and he again eats a sausage in the same manner. The looks his gets this time are far more suspicious. Angst, directed by Gerald Kargl, has the prestige of having Oscar-winning Zbigniew Rybczyński take hands at some of the more prominent technical achievements here – cinematography, editing et al. It also has the tag of being banned across Europe. Erwin Leder’s portrayal of the obscure mass murderer is frightfully convincing. You’re unable to not admire the twisted turn, even if he makes your stomach curdle for the most part.