New To Blu: Angst

Angst finally hit blu-ray today. Read our review. Don't be scared of a little blood.

"How's that for garlic breath?"
Called by Gaspar Noe ‘the greatest serial killer film I have ever seen’, German director Gerald Kargl’s Angst is the best serial killer film you’ve neither heard of but now will finally have the chance to see thanks to Cult Epics’ newly released blu-ray edition.  

Telling the story of a nameless psychopath (brilliantly and fearless portrayed by Erwin Leder) recently freed from prison for murdering an elderly woman only to pick up where he left off immediately upon release, Angst is both a cool and distant God’s Eye view as well as an uncomfortably up, close and personal look at a serial murderer.  Less interested in analyzing the killer’s motives than observing his behavior from a fish eye lens, Angst is berserk and manically stylized in its attempt to bring viewers inside the point of view of the psychopath.  Loosely based on the real murder spree of Werner Kniesek with voice over narration quoting actual confessions from serial killers like Peter K├╝rten, Angst plays out in real time as the film’s serial killer clumsily attempts a first murder before hesitantly breaking and entering an elderly family’s home.  Far more realistic for depicting a mass murderer sloppy at his craft of bloodletting, Angst is often compared to the equally disturbing and uncompromising Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

What’s immediately striking about Angst is the impossible camerawork which Noe clearly studied closely before reshaping it into his own visual language.  Opening with a crane shot slowly gliding down the tower of a prison towards the main exit our antihero will depart, modern viewers will see Irreversible achieved without the aid of CGI enhancement or invisible editing.  When the film isn’t showing off some of the most innovative crane shots ever created for a film, our skewed sociopathic perspective through the killer’s eyes is furthered by the use of the Snorricam, freezing the killer in the center of a shot as the background moves around behind him.  Then there’s the floating camera following the killer as he runs through an open forest in pursuit of his first potential victim, the camera swaying to and from, moving in and out, from diagonals to strafing.  The effect could only have been achieved by the use of helium balloons or by a genuinely skilled cinematographer.  Either way, it’s utterly jaw dropping to see.  Adding to the feeling of sickness is the desaturated cool blue tint, giving the proceedings an icy detachment which only amplifies our discomfort.  It goes without saying acting across the board, from the victims to our deeply disturbed antihero, is excellent and fearlessly played.  Some of the unspeakable acts the killer commits onscreen must have taken real gall to perform, and the impact of the performances is remarkably authentic and effective. 

"This hallway is nowhere near as scary
as seeing me naked. Wanna look?"
Despite the unparalleled technical sophistication and brave performances on display, Angst remained almost completely unknown in the United States.  Noe’s rave of the film prompted a full digital restoration of the film and subsequent blu-ray release in France, but for the longest time American filmgoers were forced to turn to dated VHS copies on eBay or degraded YouTube fan video as their only option.  A shame that what could well be the most stylish nonjudgmental serial killer film ever made has been treated like a radioactive object not to be touched with a ten foot cattle prod here.  Only now, decades later, are American viewers finally being granted the chance to see Angst in a lavish blu-ray restoration replete with extras and, of course, Noe’s own endorsement included.  With the recent announcement of Noe’s next feature film project, Love, as well as our own pop cultural fascination with serial killers in the media, Angst is ripe for proper rediscovery stateside and provides a unique perspective on what it must be like to see through a murderer’s eyes. 


-Andrew Kotwicki

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