Review: ‘Der Besucher’

Return of fascist sentiments within the reunited German territories is a hot subject. But you couldn't beat a colder path to that door than the regurgitated 1970s New German Cinema cliches of "The Visitor."

Return of fascist sentiments within the reunited German territories is a hot subject. But you couldn’t beat a colder path to that door than the regurgitated 1970s New German Cinema cliches of “The Visitor.”

Traveling to his maternal homeland for the first time, Israeli Jew Leon (played by scenarist Andre Hennicke) finds his train mysteriously stopped in a tunnel, where all passengers are ordered out and detained indefinitely. There, a mini-society has grown sheepish with fear and boredom. They passively accept all police abuse while amusing themselves with their own “street” musicians, press conferences, useless politicians and evangelists.

Leon meanders through, witnessing predictably degraded local color. Symbolism is laughably crude, including the requisite chorus line of high-kicking Nazi-ettes. Eventually Leon simply walks through an unguarded exit, leaving the cowed populace behind.

The societal metaphor is obvious within 10 minutes, leaving plenty of time to be padded with pretentious dialogue and ersatz decadence a la the most mannered excesses of the sub-Fassbinder school.

Picking the silliest sequence is difficult. Perhaps the big smokers’ rights rebellion. Or the gay man forced to “sodomize” a woman who keeps her undies on. Director Dror Zahavi seems to think all of this is quite devastating. Any humor is strictly of the unintentional stripe.

Sallying forth with pure cineaste noodling, “The Visitor” comes off as just another Weimar Republic dress-up cabaret, with the usual leering faces standing in for the Collective Evil.

Performances are mechanically stylized, tech aspects adequate.

Der Besucher

(GERMAN)

Production

A Wild Okapi Film presentation of a Zahavi Film/Duetscher Fersehfunk DSF-TV production. Produced by Horst Kiaulehn. Directed by Dror Zahavi. Screenplay, Andre Hennicke.

Crew

Camera (color), Matthias Tschiedel; editor, Christine Schone; music, Peter Hiller; art direction, Gunter Pezolod; costumes, Karin Pas; sound, Christfried Sobczyk. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal, Sept. 3, 1992. (In Jews in New Europe fest, N.Y.) Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Leon ... Andre Hennicke Almuth ... Silke Matthias Mother ... Anne Moll
With: Peter Hiller, Volker Ranisch.
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