In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb world 9

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

This is a movie that’s annoying in part because it doesn’t care if you’re annoyed by it. It doesn’t need you, the individual viewer, to…

Thumb tag poster

Tag

A lazy, vulgar celebration of White Male American Dumbness.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Tenderness of the Wolves

  |  

"Tenderness of the Wolves" is a nasty little melodrama, lurid and creepy and sometimes bordering on demented humor. It's the kind of movie we may not exactly enjoy, but we don't walk out on. The movie comes from the Rainer Werner Fassbinder film group in Berlin and is directed by Fassbinder's protege Ulli Lommel. The movie's based on the actual case of Fritz Harrmann, a.k.a. the Werewolf of Hanover, who was a homosexual child molester with a sideline in vampirism. He was convicted in 1924 of two dozen murders, but speculated during his trial that he may have killed 30 people, or perhaps 40. 

Advertisement

Kurt Raab, who wrote the screenplay and plays Harrmann, has added a few touches of his own; in this version Harrmann dismembers his victims and sells their flesh to restaurants. He also sells their clothes and boots ("You certainly have a lot of boots to sell, Mr. Harrmann," the local shoemaker observes.) And he dumps the leftovers into the river. ("He's always leaving the house with large parcels," a neighbor tells the police. "The funny thing is, he never enters the house with large parcels . . .") 

Fassbinder's color films in the early 1970s perfected a sleazy look somewhere between rotogravure and smudged comic book; "Tenderness of the Wolves" continues the tradition. Lommel fills his screen with deep shadows and underlit rooms, with garish nightclubs and deserted train platforms. We're reminded at times of Fritz Lang's "M," in which Peter Lorre played one of Fritz Harrmann's contemporaries, Peter Kurten, a.k.a. the Vampire of Duesseldorf. 

The film isn't a moralistic tract; it fixes a cold eye on Harrmann and follows him through several weeks of his depraved existence, and at the end it simply allows the characters to walk away from us. It's set in the years after World War II (setting it in 1924 would have been too expensive, producer Fassbinder decided,) it shows a Germany shattered by defeat and bartering on the black market, and by the film's end we can almost understand why the nice old lady who runs the restaurant is happy to buy that juicy red meat at discount prices, no questions asked. 

We learn relatively little about Harrmann - certainly not how he got into the business of seduction, vampirism, murder and restaurant supply. But we do learn something of his world. Lommel's sets are grimy and depressing, he gives Harrmann a wretched garret to live in, and provides him with an odd assortment of lowlife friends. It's almost the case that the movie doesn't have to comment on its characters; that a moral or a message would be obscene juxtaposed with this repellent material. The movie descends into ugly barbarism and stays there, and perhaps that took more imagination than a conventional cops-and-killers approach. Like Fassbinder's own work, the movie has a haunting banality. It's about insignificant creeps, and it invests them with a depressing universality.

Advertisement

Popular Blog Posts

Five Ways to Save Star Wars

The suggestions in this article are worth 10 billion dollars.

Dark Souls Remastered Wants to Make You Cry This Summer

A review of Dark Souls Remastered, a game so good it will make you cry.

Thumbnails Special Edition: Where Are Our Diverse Voices in Film Criticism

A special edition of Thumbnails spotlighting the efforts being made to amplify diverse voices in film criticism follo...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus