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Here’s the Movie That Inspired Every Gaspar Noé Movie, Including the 3-D Porn in ‘Love’

Here's the Movie That Inspired Every Gaspar Noé Movie, Including the 3-D Porn in 'Love'


READ MORE: Gaspar Noé on Shooting Sex in ‘Love’ and Why He Loves His Bad Reviews

A new Gaspar Noé release is always something to behold. His films thrive on audience ambivalence — confrontational, challenging, disturbing and, yes, beautiful technical marvels that push the form to new heights but scare off most moviegoers. It’s a fitting description for “Love,” his latest opus, which begins a slow rollout to theaters this Friday.

“Love” is a porn-melodrama, shot in 3D, and though its Cannes premiere back in May was a hot ticket, the film received a mixed response. While “Love” is certainly much smaller in scale and technical ambition than “Enter The Void,” Noé’s previous (and best) film, it does still carry his unmistakable filmmaker DNA. In Noé’s words, the idea of the project was to portray “sexual passion,” but even in a film called “Love” — with its provocations coming from the actual sex between the actors (no CG-trickery or stunt doubles here) — the fingerprints of a shocking, mostly unseen film from the eighties can still be found all over Noé’s work.

Angst,” an Austrian home invasion film from 1983, is one of the director’s favorite films of all time. It’s arguably more of a direct influence on his style and approach to cinema than even “2001: A Space Odyssey,” his favorite film of all time, which is referenced directly in Noé’s three major films: “Irréversible” (the poster hangs in Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel’s apartment); “Love,” when the aspiring filmmaker lead character espouses its virtues; and in the conception and structure of “Void.” However, “Angst” has only recently re-surfaced, screening this past summer at the Cinefamily in Los Angeles and newly released on Blu-ray last month courtesy of Cult Epics. Now that it can find a wider audience, it deserves one. The Blu-ray release for “Angst” restores the film’s beauty in its
entirety, and makes it accessible for a new generation of cinephiles.

A Gorgeous Rediscovery

Long banned and censored (by the director, no less), the film circulated on European VHS and then DVD for decades, gaining infamy during the video nasty era. Because of its extreme content (and also probably because of its misleading Blu-ray cover) it’s always been broadly labeled a horror film. In reality, it’s far more than just sleazy exploitation. “Angst” just happens to contain a home invasion plot, horrific violence and a perspective that rarely deviates from the inner thoughts of a deranged serial killer.

After a brief prologue explaining his origins, the film opens on a psychopathic killer just released from prison and instantly beginning the hunt for his next victims. Set over 24 hours and conceived as a real-time experience that puts the viewer inside the mind of the killer, the camera relentlessly follows this damaged soul as he tries to quench his bloodlust. After a series of initial mishaps and a bungled murder attempt on a cab driver, he stumbles upon a secluded mansion where he captures, tortures and kills three people. By the climax, he’s been caught and will surely go right back to the jail cell whence he came.

Four key principal creatives were involved in “Angst”: star Erwin Leder (“Das Boot,” “Taxidermia”), who gives a fearless, committed and altogether brilliant performance; composer Klaus Schulze, formerly of Tangerine Dream, whose synth-heavy score is one for the ages; writer, producer, and director Gerald Kargl, who never made another film; and DP, writer, editor Zbigniew Rybczyński, a Polish genius/madman who also won an Oscar in 1983 for his animated short film “Tango” (watch it here). These four are the reason the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, raising “Angst” well above the average, or even above-quality, horror picture. 

It is Rybczyński, though, who by all accounts was the real driving force behind the innovative and mind-blowing cinematic experience that is “Angst.” To visually convey the killer’s twisted psychology, he employed an experimental technique in which he shot with the camera upside-down and reflected off an attached mirror. In post-production, the negative was reversed to make the images appear correct. It’s a seamless effect, but still jarring, and adds to the otherworldly atmosphere of a living nightmare.

That’s just one of many avant-garde camera effects: there’s first-person perspective employed; the camera is often strapped directly to Leder, connected via handmade harness; epic crane shots abound; a taxing rope and pulley system was even devised, to better capture the killer’s mania as he ran full speed ahead in certain scenes. Horror films have often been a breeding ground for ambitious filmmakers to experiment with style, but “Angst” is the kind of creative cinematic explosion that’s more in line with “Citizen Kane” than “Evil Dead 2.”

Enter Gaspar Noé

On the “Angst” Blu-ray, Noé introduces the film and shares how he learned about it: François Cognard of Starfix Magazine recommended the VHS to him—certain he would like the camerawork at least—while he was making his first feature, the 40-minute “Carne” from 1991. Alas, Noé became obsessed with the film, then known as “Schizophrenia,” and he couldn’t stop showing it to friends and watching it endlessly. “Carne” is the first chapter in the story of the butcher (Philippe Nahon), which continued with “I Stand Alone” in 1998 (Noé’s first full-length feature) and even into the opening scene of “Irreversible.”

The script of “Angst” is almost entirely made up of the killer’s inner monologue, delving into his thoughts and reasons for what he does. It’s a technique that’s appeared in some shape or form in all of Noé’s films, but is used most similarly in “Carne” and “I Stand Alone,” with the audience uncomfortably privy to the butcher character’s angry, racist and violent thoughts.

Of course, the inner monologue shows up sporadically in the early sections of “Enter The Void” and is used through all of the present day framing scenes in “Love.” In each film, the protagonist is vapid, inarticulate and even kind of a jerk. We aren’t meant to sympathize with them so much as understand them a little better. This is one of the driving forces behind “Angst,” where Kargl and his crew set out to make “a strong piece of cinema” that immersed the audience uncomfortably into the mind of a psychopath. Voiceover is a tricky device to pull off, but Noé has always cribbed from the best (“Taxi Driver” is another noted favorite).

Collaboration Mania

By the time he started working on 2002’s “Irreversible,” Noé had found his own personal Zbigniew Rybczyński in the mad genius of Belgian cinematographer Benoît Debie, also an extremely innovative director of photography who employs expressive, bold camerawork in everything he works on (other examples include “Spring Breakers,” “Calvaire” and “Lost River”). With “Irréversible” (also structured around a real-time narrative conceit) and then “Enter The Void,” Noé’s films became stylistic explosions themselves, using the camera to show the audience perspectives they’d as yet never even imagined.

And that horrific rape scene in “Irréversible” set in a tunnel? Look to the most disturbing scene in “Angst” for that inspiration. There’s no question that, if Rybczyński had computer technology back in 1983, he would’ve used it as boldly as Debie does in those two films. Now it’s near impossible to think of any Gaspar Noé film without Benoît Debie’s name in the credits, so strong is the DP’s imprint on his style. 

After “Angst” was released, director Gerald Kargl lost most of his money that was tied up in the production. He moved into the commercial world to make it back, and over time, he did. Over the years, he’s been more critical of his “accomplishments” on the film, saying he’d do it differently today. But that youthful, naive energy is part of the magic of the film, where a small group of resourceful artists came together with limited means but a massive ambition to make something new. It’s time for “Angst” to get the respect it deserves, not just as some lost extreme splatter flick, but as the amazingly immersive art film it truly is — and for the even more transgressive filmmaker who it inspired years later.

“Angst” is available on Blu-ray and for streaming on Amazon. “Love” in 3D starts rolling out October 30.

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