Review Day 19: The Fan (1982)
Intense fans and fandoms are nothing new, because of the use of social media in present times it feels almost overwhelming and almost everywhere you look. But back before we had access to the online world, fans for stars would track them through newspapers, magazines, appearances on TV and buying their products. There has been a cult of celebrity for a long time, and West German film The Fan (1982) takes a look at this through the eyes of an obsessed fan, as she longs for a life with a new wave singer who she feels an intense love for. More often then not films that look at the industry (in this case the music industry) don’t always show things completely from the fans point of view, this one does and ensures through how it is shot that the audience questions its narrator.
Simone (Désirée Nosbusc) is a teenager, her life seems very isolating, she is infatuated with German new wave musician simply known as ‘R’ (Bodo Staiger) and longs to be with him. Through her voice she speaks to the audience about her obsession, she writes him fan letters constantly and is sure someone is conspiring against her and stopping R from getting her letters. When she doesn’t hear back from him, she takes it upon herself to find out where he will be so she can meet him. Traveling to Munich, Simone camps out outside a studio hoping for a glimpse of her obsessed, and when he does show up, things don’t go the way she expects.
This is a beautifully shot film, every frame feels expertly put together, no scene goes wasted, bringing an almost early art house vibe to the piece. Accompanied by a German new wave soundtrack from the band Rheingold (the singer of the band plays R in the film), it goes perfectly with every scene and is almost hypnotic. The film isn’t quite a typical horror film, the horror coming much later in the film, but the build up is intense and uncomfortable right from the start.
Simone’s intense obsession isn’t meant to make the audience feel comfortable, she continues to isolate herself from the world as her obsession grows deeper and her connection to the outside world gets smaller. She skips school, doesn’t eat, listen’s to R’s music non stop and fades herself away from her family and friends. This is her film, the audience is with her and despite the madness she presents that grows and her psychotic break is imminent, she is a character that you begin to care about and don’t want to see anything bad happen to her.
The performances are fantastic with Désirée Nosbusc bringing so much to the table as Simone, she is in every scene and handles the material with maturity but an intensity, there is much sadness behind her eyes. Bodo Staiger is also excellent as R, he had little acting experience but it never shows, and the scenes the pair share together are something special, even if they are uncomfortable because they are supposed to be.
Eckhart Schmidt who wrote and directed the film crafted something very surreal and while it may not have been well received at the time, it thankfully has gotten more eyes on it over the past few years. Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if this film had some inspiration on Nicholas Winding Refn, from the music to the visuals it shares similarities with the likes of The Neon Demon (2016) and it is easy to see why this film would have been an inspiration on those levels. While this is a film about obsession, there is a lot more under the surface with political subtexts, which certainly make the film intriguing when you go down that rabbit hole.
Some viewers may feel uncomfortable with the fact actress Désirée Nosbusc was 16 at the time of filming and the uncut version of the film shows full nudity, it isn’t gratuitous at all and after many years she made amends with writer/director Eckhart Schmidt.
Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea