Blutsfreundschaft [Initiation] (2009)

Blutsfreundschaft (which actually means blood friendship, as in a friendship bound by a blood oath, and not initiation) is the newest movie by Austrian director Peter Kern and stars Helmut Berger, Harry Lampl and Melanie Kretschmann.

Axel (Harry Lampl) is pretty alone and kind of lost. More by coincidence than actual conviction, he starts to hang out with a group of neonazis. When they attack a group of people and Axel accidentally kills one of them, he finds a refuge in Gustav (Helmut Berger), a gay laundry owner. Axel reminds Gustav of an old lover of his, so while Gustav tries to save Axel from the neonazis and himself, he unrolls his own past with the nazis.

This movie was pretty much ridiculous, I’m sorry to say. The plot, the portrayal of the neonazis, the portrayal of Gustav and Axel… It was all too much like a caricature to actually work. And why Helmut Berger was ever considered one of the great actors is so not clear from this film…

Peter Kern is a polemic person (as far as I can tell): he likes to say and do things to stir people and they will always be things that half the people will admire and the other half will admonish. But personally? I’m tired of polemics that have nothing to back them up. Being polemic just for polemic’s sake doesn’t work. You have to follow it up with communication and discussion and communication and communication. That is, of course, only if your goal is to change things and to make people think. If your goal is to shock and to titilate, then by all means, be polemic. But go bother someone else with it.

And that was my problem with this movie. Or better, one of the problems. Another thing was the ridiculousness of it all: Axel doesn’t mean to kill the guy during the attack. He’s just holding a knife and the other guy stumbles on somebody lying on the ground and falls into the knife. Seriously. That’s what happened.
Or the ending: [SPOILER] The neonazis march through the streets all aggressive and looking for trouble. Suddenly, a ragtag group of people (all of whom would probably end up in concentration camps if the neonazis got their way) block the street. And the oh-so-evil nazis don’t beat them up, don’t scream at them, don’t do anything but disband and go home. What. The. Hell. [/SPOILER]
Gustav’s story was clear from a mile away. I really didn’t get why they made such a secret of it.

But what bothered me more than the ridiculousness of the plot was that the neonazis were portrayed as the ultimate evil. They weren’t even people anymore, they were animals who enjoyed raping (even the leader’s girlfriend) and beating people up (even each other) and had no motivation than the aggression itself. I’m sorry, but if you refuse to acknowledge that nazis are human, too, we will always have problems with them. We need to see and get the humans behind the despicable behaviour to maybe change something (but then again, I’m probably falsely assuming that Peter Kern wants change and not outrage).

Apart from the problems I had with the content, there was also the form. Gustav has a best friend – Christina. Christina is transitioning from male to female, or trying to, and is basically the only social contact Gustav had. Her story is told in a lot of detail but has no connection whatsoever with the actual plot. It’s an entirely seperate movie within the movie.
Melanie Kretschmann, who plays Christina (and is, as far as I know, not transgender), does a good job, as does Harry Lampl (though both performances sometimes are a little over the top. Which in this case I can excuse since it had to fit the rest of the movie). But Helmut Berger? Was so bad. I could basically see him reading the text. For somebody who is such a big actor, it’s especially disgraceful.

This movie could have been really awesome. There’s much too little said about homosexuals in WW II. Problems with neonazis in Austria are often downplayed. The situation of transgender people in Austria is totally unclear to a broader “audience”. But in the end, the film gets caught up in the polemic and the ridiculousness and fails to say anything meaningful.

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