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Angst (1983)

Angst is an Austrian movie, made in the glorious year of my birth. We follow .... ....., a guy who has been living 14 years of his life in prison - first for attempted murder of his mother, then for a random old woman he killed. He narrates his story to us.

This movie is so essentially Austrian that I only want to mention it once. This movie breathes Austria.

Our protagonist informs us that he plans to kill again - and again and again. His plan consists of visiting the first café that's open to look for a human.

Camera, editing, sound and acting combine to create a tense atmosphere. Our protagonist - our killer - needs to act out his fantasies after 10 years in prison. After a failed attempt to kill a female taxi driver (she reminds him of his first girlfriend...), he gets out of the taxi, slightly disoriented, and runs through the wooden area. He does not know where he is, how long he was running or into which direction. Aimlessly, he walks on.

...until he chances upon an apparently empty, deserted house surrounded by a park with a small wood and a lake. Ideal - no neighbours anywhere, big, isolated... our protagonist breaks a window and enters the house.

He is full of nervous, greedy tension, and informs us that he cannot take it much longer without... without. He is afraid - in a state which ruled out any logic. He is afraid of himself. Thoughts of his grandmother and his early childhood fear of being alone in a dark room. Haunted and tense, he wanders through the house... and then he sees the white car approaching. The inhabitants.

His plan will work. This place is perfect.

What follows is the spiraling down of our protagonist's rational thought into disorder and fear, the events spiraling out of conscious control. His thoughts scatter, drift back to his childhoods. His mother tried to kill him. He explains it to us in the same way he explains to us that he hadn't been wanted by his mother, as she would have preferred a girl. Growing up with his grandmother, who was very religious, he was sent to a monastery. They also kept animals there, and he used to go there and cut one of the animals - a pig - until it bled and screamed. After that, he'd had to leave the monastery. His mother then told him that his family had to be afraid of him. Fear. Abuse had followed, in order to discipline him.

All the while, he is pacing around frantically through the house, searching for his victims. He needs to find them. Needs to kill them. Both of the still living victims are incapacitated in some way... so it's not that difficult to find them. But still, nothing went as he had imagined it. He wanted it to be ...more dramatic.

The plan goes haywire. One of the victims, the old woman, appears to be unconscious, and he needs her to be conscious. He wants to see her suffer. Semi-freeing the daughter, he crawls off with her to the kitchen to find the medication for the old woman. Indiscriminately, he feeds her pills, for she still needs to whimper and cry before him - she cannot die just like that. But she's dead.


And then... cold again. Now, only the girl is left.

But this death also doesn't go as planned, and frustration consumes him - his urges are still unfulfilled. No torture. No pain. Everything went too fast, had been too much out of his control.

And then... well, then things spiral even more out of control.

The camera is always well done - nothing special, a bit minimalistic, but good at capturing the mood of an Austrian city and Austrian, uhm, woods. Some of the shots are more than just good and help to add a frantic, surreal atmosphere to the movie, as befits a flick about a serial killer spiraling out of control. There is no logic to his psychotic needs anymore - where before there was cold planning, there now is hectic, frantic, impulsive rage and delusion.

Killer-wise, we get treated to some light necrophilia (if we can call it that) and the spectrum of manic episodes in a disordered serial killer after his first kills in 10 years.

I congratulate Erwin Leder for his portrayal of the psychopath. It's a good performance that shows us one of the myriad faces of mental disease. He really is perfect for the role - whilst watching Angst, you can literally see Leder grow into the role more and more the more demented our protagonist becomes.

He is, as an actor, delving into the midst of psychotic, fragmented thought - the thought-pattern that has come to dominate our killer's psyche. Wide shots accompany him as he hurries to the car, showing us the bleak Austrian landscape of autumn. That specific Austrian feeling. Funny Games (the original, not the remake) had some of that atmosphere as well, but nowhere near as completely and markedly as Kargl's Angst.

Déja vù.

A brilliant movie. I personally can only recommend it.

10/10 unstable serial killers who never experienced their mother's love.

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