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TRANCE

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.

The Package
     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.

The Story
     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.

The Direction
     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 diversion.
     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.

 
Vital Statistics

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
 

     

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