The most anticipated of the three German competition titles at Locarno, Jan Schuette’s “Fat World” turned out to be the weakest and most disappointing. This overly loose, undramatic tale of down-and-outs in Munich, from the director of the interesting “Dragon’s Food” (1987) and “Goodbye America” (1994), resolutely fails to come into dramatic focus or reveal much about its marginal characters, signaling weak theatrical business and TV sales at best.
Hagen (Juergen Vogel) is a young street bum who’s opted out of his middle-class background (his father was a cop) and now has a new “family” of assorted tramps, including prostitute Liane (Sibylle Canonica). Opening 20 minutes sketch their life and characters, petty thieving and dreams. Hagen’s only ally in “respectable” society is a sympathetic police officer (Ernst Stoetzner), who knew his father and feels somewhat protective toward him.
Shortly, Judith (Julia Filiminow), a 15-year-old runaway from Berlin starts hanging out with the group, despite Hagen’s suspicion that she’s a middle-class girl simply after a bit of excitement. Judith comes on to Hagen, and he eventually — soullessly — relieves her of her virginity one night; later, the pair are arrested while copulating on a train, Judith is sent home and Hagen is threatened with abduction of a minor.
Parallel to the main thread is the story of Edgar (Lars Rudolph), a tramp who is desperately in love with Liane. When she becomes the full-time mistress of a rich man, Edgar tracks her down and stabs her in a park.
Though the film is not as bleak a ride as its description suggests, it is strangely shapeless and lacking in internal tension. Characters are confusingly introduced, the viewer too often has to fill in blanks in the storyline, and several of the personalities do not ring true. Final half-hour, as the now lovelorn Hagen rehabilitates himself with a job and tries to track Judith down in Berlin, is equally undramatic.
Vogel’s hangdog demeanor and attitude at least maintain interest in Hagen, even when the script isn’t giving many clues to his thought processes. Newcomer Filiminow is fine as Judith, though the role is little backgrounded and barely believable; the colorful supports are all OK, especially Stoetzner as the cop. Snatches of a repeated motif on an accordion add occasional warmth but do nothing to elevate the central love story above the mundane.