This 1982 German sickie is the last word on celebrity stalking. The
film was and remains notorious for its protracted depictions of
necrophilia and dismemberment, but it’s also powerfully atmospheric, and
a quintessential product of its time.
Unsurprisingly, TRANCE (DER FAN) inspired a fair amount
of controversy in its day. It remains the best known film of Germany’s
talented and woefully underrated Eckhart Schmidt. Other notable Schmidt
directed films include DAS GOLD DER LIEBE (1983), LOFT and ALPHA CITY
(both 1985), all largely unknown in the U.S.
TRANCE is also notable for featuring actress Desiree
Nosbusch in an early role that demonstrates her formidable range and
screen presence (she was known at the time for hosting a popular music
variety show in Germany). Also featured is singer Bodo Steiger, who
plays the object of Nosbusch’s character’s obsession, and whose band
Rheingold furnished the film’s new wave score.
Young Simone is obsessed with “R,” a new wave rock
star. When R doesn’t answer her fan mail she’s devastated--suicidal,
even. But Simone keeps writing, with her letters growing increasingly
creepy and obsessive, claiming she “can’t go on without” R.
Simone decides to wait 10 days, and if R doesn’t
respond by them she’ll pay him a direct visit. When the hoped-for
missive doesn’t arrive Simone hitchhikes to Berlin, the site of a
popular music variety show. She actually catches R’s eye outside a TV
studio, and R, most unfortunately for him, is immediately smitten.
The following evening R takes Simone to an abandoned
country apartment owned by a friend who’s out of town. There he takes
her virginity and attempts to leave. Simone freaks out and bashes his
head in with a statue…and from there her madness overflows in a gruesome
riot of perverted eroticism and gore.
One’s enjoyment of this movie depends, first and
foremost, upon a willingness to put up with the obnoxiously dated
eighties new wave music that pervades at least an hour’s worth of the
soundtrack. If you like that sort of thing fine, but if not you’re in
for a mighty rough ride.
The early scenes are touching and compelling, even if
they do over-rely on the heroine’s voice-over narration to move things
along. There’s no evidence that what we’re viewing is horror-themed,
even though the obsessive nature of the heroine’s affection for R
registers quite strongly. So too do the boredom and hopelessness of her
existence in early 1980s Germany, which as portrayed in this film is
depressing enough that stalking a rock star almost seems like a valid
Some of the later developments are less than
believable. The fact that R so readily invites the mentally unbalanced
Simone into his fold strains credulity, although a lengthy mid film sex
scene between the two is quite strong, expressing both the awkwardness
and tenderness they feel toward each other while, in its distinct air of
brooding menace, foreshadowing the horrors to come.
The final half hour, presented largely without
dialogue, is genuinely and profoundly horrific, and unfolds in as
morbidly atmospheric a manner as can be imagined. Director Eckhart
Schmidt definitely doesn’t skimp on the gruesome details, which thanks
to the unerringly assured style and atmosphere never seem gratuitous or
out of place. Only a ridiculously phony bald cap worn by the heroine in
the final scenes mars the overall effect.
TRANCE (DER FAN)
Barbara Moorse Workshop
Director: Eckhart Schmidt
Producer: Barbara Moorse, Martin Moszkowicz
Screenplay: Eckhart Schmidt
Cinematography: Bernd Heinl
Editing: Patricia Rommel, Eckhart Schmidt
Cast: Desiree Nosbusch, Bodo Steiger, Simone Brahmann, Jonas Vischer,
Helga Tolle, Klaus Munster, Ian Moorse, Wilfried Blasberg, Sabine
Kueckelmann, Claudia Schumann, Nikolai Hoffmann