Angst (digital release) ★★★½

Gerald Kangl, a one-time Austrian filmmaker, directed and released Angst in 1983 to just about obscurity. To say that Angst was ahead of its time wouldn’t be an exaggeration: it is a film in the ‘psychokiller’ subgenre of horror films, later followed by the more well-known films Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and The Silence of the Lambs.

AngstAngst has been cited by Gaspar Noé as a major influence in his films and its common visual qualities (crane shots, rapid cuts, extreme close-ups of faces and mouths) are most pronounced in Noé’s debut film I Stand Alone, also featuring a man driven by violent impulse.

Similar to the unnamed protagonist of I Stand Alone, known as “the Butcher” due to his occupation, the protagonist of Angst is simply- and bleakly- listed as “the Psychopath” on IMDb. He is a gaunt man, acted by Erwin Leder to tremendous effect, raised in an unhappy family by his mother and grandmother. His father, an alcoholic, was sent away. Throughout his life his relations with women are increasingly negative and serve as inspiration for his violent acts. The court mulls over his case, troubled that they are not able to find a source of motivation, seemingly ignorant of the effect the Psychopath’s troubled upbringing had on him. His motivation is pure revenge towards his family, albeit displaced on innocent people.

Angst is perhaps one of the most existential film I’ve seen (consider the final shot of the film if you decide to see it). The Psychopath exhibits an addictive desperation, his body weakened and spasming before committing violent acts. He aims to be sadistic yet is not able to enact the darkest of his fantasies. His actions are primarily influenced by factors not under his control, factors generated by a world that sweeps its inhabitants from place to place, from idea to idea, relentlessly.

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