The Austin film scene is a deep one. Although smaller than its west coast counterpart, central Texas is home to some of the most incredible filmmakers, actors, and screenwriters in the country. Movies are made out here on shoestrings compared to the Hollywood budgets, but the style and artistry originating in the area is more inspiring than what any amount of money will buy.
One of the most auspicious filmmakers to call Austin his turf is Richard Linklater. Known well for the generational "Dazed and Confused", and more recently "Boyhood", he is a key part of the area's silver screen prowess. A passionate community builder, he has lead an effort to help raise the city's taste in film to match the level of it's food. One such effort is the Austin Film Society, aka AFS. Founded in 1985, its sole purpose is to foster, and provide and outlet for, the love of well crafted cinema. With a single theater sporting two screens, the showings are carefully selected so as to bring the widest offering to the cinephiles here in town.
A new recurring program at the AFS theater is Deep End, run by local film nerd Jazmyne Moreno. The second showing in the series, this week's selection was "Der Fan", a cold but passionate horror flick released in 1982. The writer and director, Eckhart Schmidt, is little known anywhere in the world, including his homeland of Germany. Schmidt began his filmmaking in the late 1960s and early 1970s, specializing in movies telling stories about the youth culture. Growing bored of this space, he transitioned to being a music journalist at the heat of the nu-wave movement in the late 1970s. While working at a fan-zine he came into contact with a diary that had disturbing levels of obsession. Fascinated by this side of human nature, he penned the story for "Der Fan" to dig deeper. From Jazmyne:
Teenage angst and obsession set to cold German synths, Der Fan is the absorbing tale of a girl’s unwavering obsession with her pop-star idol. When they meet, her obsession will lead to madness. An entrancing minimalist take on pure fanaticism, accompanied by a Walkman.
The lead, Désirée Nosbusch, had never touched the exploitation genre until she read through the script and immediately signed on. While she absolutely terrifies in her role as Simone, after seeing the pre-screening the actress tried to sue Schmidt and his studio to prevent it from being released to a wide audience. She said she was afraid it would ruin her career. "She's the only actress for me," Eckhart Schmidt said of her in 2014.
She had a point, but so did he. This movie is made whole because of how well she plays the obsessive compulsive fan. The passion behind her performance is truly frightening, made more impactful by the terrific pacing by Schmidt. The entire film is a master class in "show, don't tell", with a brutally cold script whose efficiency leaves nothing to be desired. The lack of dialogue keeps tensions high throughout the film and with artful directing, the emotions are expressed in a purer form than words ever could.
Along those same lines, the movie is technically gory but he opts to artfully leave out the worst bits. This is almost more horrifying, as instead of seeing bloody gore, we see the vicious face of the one wielding the knife. With a killer soundtrack that can never grow old, Der Fan deserves a slot on your must-see cult classics. Keep an eye on Austin Film Society for screenings like this in the future.