Blu-Review: Der Fan (Eckhart Schmidt, 1982) - Mondo Macabro

by Jason Suzuki

There are films like Taxi Driver in which your time with a character is time spent counting down to when their delusions will reach their climax and fully externalize to a disturbing denouement. The best of these films come off at first as distant, objective character studies but reveal themselves to actually be filtered through its protagonist. The world is distorted but not to the point of fetishizing mental illness, just enough to gradually align us with the character’s view. They are character studies where actions are not the basis for analysis but the focalizations of the world view. The Fan does just this.

In The Fan our Travis Bickel is a high school girl named Simone. Her god is pop-idol R. She doesn’t attend school regularly, instead using her time waiting for the postman to give her the letter from R she has no doubt is on the way but worries his personal assistant, her mother, or even the postman himself is keeping from her. At home she is distant from her parents. At school she is distant from friends; Simone is in a perpetual daze from the music of R, not even touching pen to schoolwork except to make R-centered doodles. As the film goes on she finds herself setting off from the daily grind of school, home, and post office to her destined meet-up with R.

Its soundtrack, one of many standout aspects of the film, works both diegetically and non-diegetically. It weaves between headphones in the film to the score out of film itself. The score by Rheingold is both the pop music Simone constantly has coming out of her headphones but is magnified at times to the extent that it envelopes scenes; it’s just another aspect of Simone’s voice over, another entrance into her descent into teen-idol obsession. This is an aural touch to the film that mimics the hypnosis R’s lyrics have over Simone and is complemented by the film’s visuals. This is much more than a pop-shock piece about teen-idol obsession.

Mondo Macabro’s release of The Fan has clear hopes of helping establish interest in director Schmidt and help get more of his work released in the states. The rest of the special features include text biographies on the key people involved in the film and offer many interesting bits of information from the inception of the film as a short story in a punk ‘zine the director created to the post-film controversy when lead actress Désirée Nosbusch tried to stop the film’s release.  The text features add up to the amount of a good sized booklet and greatly help contextualize a film that can still be appreciated on its own.

The twenty minute interview with the director, the best special feature on the disc, helps clarify things brought up in the text supplements. Schmidt’s discussion of his work will make you hope Mondo Macabro has plans on releasing more of his work in editions like this one. He goes into the film’s subtext as he saw it and brings with him a refreshing view on whether or not people find the other layers to the film. It’s a shame that Nosbusch and Schmidt had a falling out after the release of The Fan, something that he holds a sadness for in the interview, but if De Niro and Scorsese had a falling out we would at least have Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. The thought remains that Nosbusch and Schimidt could have had their The King of Comedy.

Jason Suzuki is co-editor to Cinema Adrift.