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FEAR

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by Gerald Kargl

grade: 8.5

In Fear, a realistic and highly innovative directorial approach in which there is very little and essential dialogue ties in well with splatter scenes that are so reminiscent of 1980s Italian horror cinema, but which nonetheless find their own fulfillment here, revealing a strong, well-marked personality. At the Viennale 2023, as part of the Filmarchiv Austria’s retrospective Keine Angst.

Killing spree

A true gem of Austrian cinema was presented to the audience forty years after it was made at the Viennale 2023, as part of the Filmarchiv Austria’s retrospective Keine Angst. We are talking about Fear, the debut feature film of Carinthian director Gerald Kargl, and a true cult film both in Austria and abroad (suffice it even to say that director Gaspar Noé has often referred to this feature as one of his favorite films).

If, therefore, the value of Fear is rightly appreciated today, it must be said that nevertheless the film did not have an easy life in its time. After its theatrical release in 1983, in fact, the film was practically unfindable in Austria for a long, long time. Only recently, therefore, has it been restored, and today, at last, it can be watched or rewatched noting how the director himself proved to be particularly courageous and even forward-looking, both from the point of view of the staged story and in terms of the directorial approach itself.

Fear, therefore is based on a true story, namely the story of Austrian serial killer Werner Kniesek, who in 1980 killed three people in St. Pölten while still on probation for numerous other crimes he committed. In the feature film, however, the protagonist’s name is never spoken, but instead, his own voiceover informs us about his past, his thoughts, and his uncontrollable desire to kill. Coming out of jail after ten years, therefore, he will wander seemingly aimlessly in order to find ideal victims. Could these be two charming girls in a café? Or a young taxi driver? Perhaps killing an entire family might satisfy his need for violence more.

What immediately strikes us in Fear is the innovative use of the camera by Gerald Kargl and Zbigniew Rybczyński, Oscar winner in 1983 for the animated short film Tango. Shots now from below now from above, disturbing close-ups of the protagonist (also made such by Erwin Leder’s extraordinary performance) made by means of a camera that Leder himself had strapped to himself via a ring, but also wild runs through the woods make this feature film a completely innovative work not only in Austria but also abroad.

A quasi-documentary approach in which there is very little and essential dialogue, therefore, ties in well with splatter scenes that are so reminiscent of 1980s Italian horror cinema, but which nevertheless find their own fulfillment in Fear, revealing a strong, well-marked personality. Klaus Schulze’s electronic and highly avant-garde music did the rest. Given its themes and the brutality of certain scenes, then, it is not surprising that the film was heavily censored at the time and even banned in some states. Yet, you know, when a film is so effective and innovative, it remains forever “young.” And even today, forty years after it was made, it has retained in every way its magnetic appeal.

Original title: Angst
Directed by: Gerald Kargl
Country/year: Austria / 1983
Running time: 79’
Genre: drama, horror, thriller
Cast: Erwin Leder, Robert Hunger-Bühler, Silvia Ryder, Karin Springer, Edith Rosset, Josefine Lakatha, Rudolf Götz, Renate Kastelik, Hermann Groissenberger, Claudia Schinko, Beate Jurkowitsch, Rosa Schandl, Rolf Böck, Emil Polaczek, Helmut Hrdina, Adolf Hagmann, Karl Riepl, Gunther Dietz
Screenplay: Zbigniew Rybczynski, Gerald Kargl
Cinematography: Zbigniew Rybczyński
Produced by: Gerald Kargl

Info: the page of Fear on iMDb; the page of Fear on the website of the Viennale