Tag Archives: Festival des films du monde

Tough Love/ Härte (Rosa Von Praunheim, Germany, 2015)

tough love

The film tells the story of Andreas Marquadt, a handsome karate champ, violent gangster and ex-con. Marquadt’s father tried to kill him as a toddler, his mother sexually abused him from pre-pubescence to the time he left home. Von Praunheim too easily ‘explains’ Marquadt’s career as a brutal, manipulative pimp in the light of this past. Certainly Marquadt himself, now married to the one girl he exploited who still stuck by him in jail, finds an excuse for his subsequent brutality to others in his childhood experiences. These, however, are the worst aspects of the film.

The reason to see Tough Love is the dexterity with which Von Praunheim tells this story, easily moving from a post-rehab present shot as documentary in colour to a black-and-white re-enactment, compellingly dramatised by Von Praunheim. The sex scenes are clinical, distanced, objective. Sex here is always about something else, usually power, domination, the with-holding of love. Von Praunheim’s great achievement is firstly to get such superb performances from Hanno Koffler as the young Marquadt; Louise Hayer, who looks like Romy Schneider and is very charismatic as Marion Erdmann, the 16 year-old who falls for and is victimised by Marquadt but who ends up staying by him; and Katy Karrenbauer as the loving, abusive and manipulative mom. Von Praunheim and his cast, working with sketchy, fake, indicative, sets, make the people and the past live and breathe; they reveal; with humour, understanding and compassion; where the documentary footage of Marquandt explains, excuses, hides, reveals only in refracted form and only what he wants to present himself as. The real Erdmann, masochistic, romantic, charismatic; a living embodiment of German Romanticism made flesh now, is very enthralling.

Von Praunheim makes films that always seem a slight mish-mash, they’re never perfect, and yet they’re often more compassionate, empathetic, understanding and memorable; more accepting of people’s many failings, and more willing to explore them deeper and in more original forms than many other, more celebrated filmmakers. I was delighted to see Tough Love, recommend it, and am grateful to the Festival des films du monde in Montreal to have created a context in which I could re-encounter the work of such a fascinating filmmakers after so many years. There should be more Von Praunheim shown in Britain. In fact a career retrospective is long overdue.

Fictional and documentary Marquadts
Fictional and documentary Marquadts

Seen at the Festival des films du monde, September 2015

José Arroyo

The Evil That Men Do (Ramon Térmens, Spain, 2015)

the evil that men do

‘The evil that men do lives after them; the good is interred with their bones’. So says Shakespeare in Julius Caesar and so shows this film.

Two henchmen, Santiago (Daniel Faraldo) and Benny (Daniel Tarbet), work for a narco kingpin. They run an outfit in the middle of nowhere – but close enough to a taco stand and a Christian revival tent — where they torture and kill their victims. They’re housed in an armed warehouse full of the heads of rivals they’ve captured and murdered, which they occasionally send as messages to the competition. It has a holding chamber reachable only by a portable staircase where they can keep kidnap victims and torture them at leisure. There’s an industrial freezer where corpses in various states of dismemberment can be kept on hold with various body parts defrosted at various times to suit every type of communication. There’s also a surgery fitted out for torture and even an industrial furnace where corpses of those nameless, unloved and thus of no use in this particular kind of communication can be easily cremated. They’re professional and have no qualms about doing their job though Salvador is better at it, more ruthless, whilst Benny is American and can’t quite get rid of his namby-pamby qualities. However, how will they act when the next  package they receive is the very lively, spoiled and manipulative 12 year-old daughter of a rival narco honcho.

The Evil That Men Do is a very dark and very funny film with very charismatic performances from Faraldo and also from Sergio Peris-Mencheta as the narco kingpin’s nephew. It’s beautifully shot and directed, a delight to see, except for the one moment, a chainsaw scene more brutal even than the one in Scarface, that even I had to close my eyes at. The film is listed as Spanish though it is clearly Mexican and contains and evokes that lawlessness, lack of respect for life, sheer brutality and barbarism that seems to be part of the very fabric of life in that country today. It’s hard to see this as merely a genre film or even to accept the violence as stylised or cartoony and designed to fit an imaginary world. The director has been so successful in creating so much out of very spare means that the film hits close to the bone of a country in chaos. The darkness and brutality here speak a culture; and the laughs that the film very successfully manages to earn from the audience doesn’t wash away the sadness of a culture reduced to this.

Seen at the Festival des films du monde, Montreal, September 2015, where the film received it’s world premiere.

José Arroyo