Heil: A different perspective on neo-Nazism
by Laurence Boyce
- KARLOVY VARY 2015: The latest film by the director of the Silver Bear-winning Stations of the Cross is a breathless farce about the absurdity of neo-Nazis and other ultra-right-wing groups
Following the formally austere Stations of the Cross [+see also:
Q&A: Dietrich Brüggemann
film profile], the latest film by German filmmaker Dietrich Brüggemann will come as a surprise to some. Heil [+see also:
interview: Dietrich Brüggemann
film profile] is a relentless and ridiculous satire, seeming to revel in controversy and political incorrectness. But underneath the absurdity of its proceedings lies a streak of rational anger that indicts the failure of governmental institutions, of the media and of the left wing to fight a growing tide of ultra-right-wing sentiment in Europe.
Sven Stanislawski is the charismatic leader of a neo-Nazi group, who is delighted when left-wing Afro-German author Sebastian Klein falls into his hands while suffering from amnesia. Ostensibly brainwashing him, Sven and his group drag Sebastian around the talk-show circuit to spout all their racist and nationalistic ideology – what better to have than a black man supporting them? But as Sebastian’s fiancée tries to get to the bottom of it all, the group decides that words are not enough. Now it is time for them to invade Poland.
Subtlety is not the order of the day here, with Brüggemann channelling a number of filmmakers – from Lubitsch to Brooks to the Monty Python team – to vent his anger. Indeed, the film seems less about making a clear and systematic argument than about screaming into the void. It’s all done with such gusto, enthusiasm and disregard for politeness that the film’s delinquency does not hinder its momentum. Similarly, while any narrative line seems secondary to the jokes, the film’s intense air of mania carries audiences through.
Opening with an international premiere in the Karlovy Vary International Competition (it has already been released in its native Germany), Heil is a film that will divide audiences and set more than a few tongues wagging.