Cult Cinema Corner: Eat Your Idols: Der Fan (1982)

There is a time in most people's young adult life where they become obsessive. They are trying to carve out a niche for themselves and discover who they are as a person. Oftentimes they will go about this by latching on to some sort of pop culture zeitgeist in order to feel like they belong to something. In director Eckhart Schmidt's German horror flick Der Fan (1982) he explores what could happen if this teenage infatuation goes unchecked and is allowed to spiral into complete and utter lunacy.

Simone (Desiree Nosbusch) is your typical teenage girl on the surface. She loves a new-wave style pop singer known only as R (Bodo Steiger) and does nothing else but listen to his music and write him fan letters. She doesn't eat, she doesn't sleep, and she starts skipping class. Everyday she waits at the local post office in hopes that a letter from R has come for her. This fixation on R has consumed her entire persona, and she has internalized all her passions into a lifeless shell. It's easy to to go down this road, to become a media zombie, and it's beneficial to the industry that pumps out these idols. That accounts for why shows like The Voice are so popular. What better goal to achieve than become the conduit for the love and adoration of millions of people, right?

Interestingly, the alternate title for Der Fan is Trance which was an edited and English dubbed version. The music that R makes is minimal electronic style, which sounds a bit like Kraftwerk. It's repetitive and hypnotic and it does indeed induce a trance-like state in Simone when she listens to it, syncing to her heartbeat and infiltrating her blood. R is inside her head at all times and it's easy to see how that can feel intimate, not unlike having a lover. Der Fan is filmed in a detached way as well, which mirrors Simone's dreamlike demeanor. The narrative can feel a little disjointed because of the style, but it seems to be an intentional choice by the director. The viewer only has Simone's point-of-view which makes for a claustrophobic experience.

When Simone finally meets R at an autograph session she freezes up and faints. It is after this point of the movie that it takes a sharp left turn into one of the most disturbing third acts I have ever seen. The set-up is fantastic, as it's a slow build up that lets you get to know Simone's character. It reminded me of Takashi Miike's masterful film Audition (1999) which has a similar innocuous set-up and explosive ending. Simone comes out at the end transformed, having finally incorporated her idol into herself in the only way she knows how. Perhaps this is the ultimate fate of a pop idol--to be completely devoured by their biggest fan.

--Michelle Kisner