DIRECTOR: FATIH AKIN | SCREENPLAY: FATIH AKIN | STARRING: JONAS DASSLER, MARGARETHE TIESEL, KATJA STUDT, DIRK BÖHLING
The Golden Glove is a relentless and unstinting film, keeping its eye almost constantly on the sad life and horrifying deeds of real-life serial killer Fritz Honka. As it opens Honka is already a murderer and we are witness to his desperate, amateurish attempts to escape detection and from there we follow his life as he drinks at The Golden Glove, with a cast of hopeless and washed up characters, a bar in the infamous red-light district of Hamburg.
Director Fatih Akin captures the bleak hopelessness of the seamy side of the 1970s perfectly, immersing you in a bleak yellowish gloom that you can almost smell, focussing on the dirt cragged and alcohol-dependent ageing regulars of The Golden Glove, a generation still scarred by Nazism and the war, people who veer between tearful sentimentality and explosive anger.
Jonas Dassler is disturbingly compelling as Honka, more disturbing for his making a shuffling nobody so magnetic. The objectively beautiful Dassler is transformed by Oscar-worthy make-up into the objectively ugly Honka but annoyingly also adopts a hunchback Igor-shuffle walk (like Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher) possibly because this is how actors think real people walk.
But for all the meticulous detail invested in recreating Honka’s world, what the film doesn’t answer is why. Not just why Honka was a killer (although alcohol does seem to be a chief baddy in the narrative) but why we the audience are watching all this. The violence is repetitive and predictable and incredibly difficult to watch and, since we witness all but one of the killings, it is a gruelling film to sit through with little prospect of any resolution, or even a moral lesson, in sight.
There are moments in this film that remind us of the importance of the #MeToo movement, of reporting violence and calling out the men who perpetrate it. Throughout the film (and a cursory reading of Wikipedia will reveal even more) we see many opportunities missed to report incidents that could have stopped Honka before he killed again. But the film also gives us a portrait of prostitutes, drunks and sadly ageing people who no one in society seems to care about, less still miss. Perhaps their accusations would still have been ignored.
So if there is a point to The Golden Glove it is this, it may not make us care about its sad and hopeless characters but it forces us to see them, to watch their every move up until their sad and horrifying end. It’s not a pleasant process, and it may not even be rewarding, but it is unstinting and meticulous in its reconstruction of lost people from a lost world, and perhaps Honka’s victims are at least owed that.