Reviews

Der Fan (1982)

Remember when the Beatles came to America? They stepped off the plane and girls were waiting on the runway, absolutely losing their fucking minds. Screaming, screeching, yelling, pulling their hair, waving photographs, and clutching their hearts to keep them from exploding out of their chests. The Beatles had finally landed, and America got #obsessed. Well even the most die-hard Lennon-lover has nothing on Simone.

Simone is obsessed with the pop star R. She listens to every song on every record on a constant loop. His music speaks to her soul. “It’s like he wrote every song for me.” Her room is plastered with photographs, drawings, and memorabilia of R. Of course, she makes out with a poster of him and writes fan mail expressing her love. She waits at the post office every day for a response, and when she doesn’t get a reply, she attacks the postal carrier. 

She falls behind in school. She acts out at home. She can’t eat. She can’t sleep. No doubt, she’s in deep. She is, in the very sense of the word, lovesick. 

“I’m so unhappy I can’t even cry anymore.”

The R in real life is Bodo Steiger, the frontman of Rheingold, a German New Wave band from the Eighties. He is exactly who you think he is: a pasty humorless man clad in black leather pants and a black shirt with big shoulder pads. He is, like all German New Wave bands, surrounded by naked mannequins. 

Eventually Simone makes her way to Munich and finally meets him. But the age-old adage of never meeting your heroes rings true here. Very, very true. She decides that if she can’t have him, no one can. 

Like the best minimal New Wave songs, Der Fan is a slow escalation that builds and builds until the final refrain. What begins as a teen obsessed with a pop star spirals into something dark and nefarious. And while you knew something was coming, you didn’t realize it’d go there. Oh, it went there. And writer/director Eckhart Schmidt never turned back.

Der Fan is stylish, twisted, heavy, and absolutely magnetic. Désirée Nosbusch’s turn as Simone is perfect; capturing the emotional essence of being an obsessed teenager. This is because she probably was an obsessed teenager; she was only seventeen at the time. While this makes the adult content a bit alarming, the maturity of her performance is impressive. There’s surprisingly little dialogue; instead we see Simone wander the streets alone while listening to R on her ever-present Walkman. She is mopey, impetuous, and innocent.

There’s a sense of dread and a heightened intensity thanks to the affecting score by Rheingold. The minimal synths, simple melodies, and sparse drum beats repeat and build; the soundtrack is dark and poppy at the same time. If there were a film version of what German New Wave actually feels like when you listen to it, Der Fan is it.

But what the film reminds us is that everyone’s favorite Beatle should be George Harrison.

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