By Adam Ray Palmer
Fatih Akin returns to the Berlinale with his latest offering in the main competition, Der Goldene Handschuh (The Golden Glove).
Following up his respected 2017 picture, In The Fade, it was always going to be a difficult feat with what really has been a mixed bag career for Akin. And this one is certain for a polarising response.
The Golden Glove centres on serial killer Fritz Honker (Jonas Dassler) who went on a killing spree in the early 1970s. Most of his murders were of lonely, abandoned Hamburg prostitutes who no one would look for when he had had his wicked way with them. And by god was it wicked.
The film kicks off like it slogs for two hours. You see the grisly, demented, buck-toothed Fritz try to bag up a body of an overweight, half naked, tortured woman. He laboriously fails and so the only logical way to deal with her is of course to cut her up and chuck half her body parts in a hedge and stuff the others into his apartment walls.
This five-minute sequence is harrowing, and the movie doesn’t let up. It’s a thin line between glorifying sexual violence and reporting on it, and I think Akin fails here miserably. Fatih at times tries to use the camera coyly, by only show half a disturbing image, like only seeing the blood splatter on Honka’s shirt but never seeing him hack off an innocent woman’s head. However, when Akin does spare us this ghastly view, he makes up for it with the bone-screeching sounds of a saw going through neck bone.
What I have just described is still the opening five minutes. What occurs after is just more brutal and more glorifying. Akin fails so badly for me on two reasons. Firstly, he gives his female cast members no dignity. He lingers far too long on their demise (even though he stated in the press conference that this is because he wanted to show their strength – bullshit). And secondly, he never explores the psychology behind the murders. We know Honka has a difficult past, but we only hear of it in a fleeting visit from his misogynist brother. For these two reasons, for me personally, it’s on the side of celebrating a killer’s story rather than examining a sick individual.
There are some positives here though. Jonas Dassler is fantastic in the role of Honka. He is fully believable, even though he is 15 years Fritz junior at the tender age of 22. His walk, squint and anger bursts are frustratingly captivating. Rainer Klausmann’s cinematography is also on point. It looks and feels like the 70s, it’s incredibly claustrophobic and the browning lens of the dark and dingy Golden Glove pub is so powerful, I nearly chocked on the smoke-filled air myself.
On the whole, people are going to hate this film, and others will not like it. It’s just too far in a direction that’s uncomfortable. I winced far too much to let myself feel safe to enjoy it. It’s haunting, but in a sadistic way.
Cineroom’s rating: 1.5 stars
The Golden Glove will be released next month in Germany.