Jörg Buttgereit, Michal Kosakowski, and Andreas Marschall deliver a shocking anthology film as only they could.

Kosakowski, in an interview with Exberliner, explained the meaning of the title, “German Angst is normally a political term. To talk about people who are against nuclear energy and stuff like this. But we meant it in a completely different way; this is the German version of real fear, panic and horror.” He went onto to say “It’s a very German film and we wanted it to be very German, not a copy of American genre horror movies,” which most certainly it is not. Marschall elaborated, “This word “Angst” has a lot of different layers to it. In Michal’s case it’s a political Angst, in my case with “Alraune” it’s more a sexual Angst and with Jörg it is a social-based fear. So we’ve got three very different layers of fear/angst.”

The first segment “Final Girl” begins pretty innocuously as we are introduced a teenage girl whose voice-over tells us about her pet guinea pig. However, this is Buttgeriet, writer and director of the notorious “Nekromantik” films, so everything is definitely not going to be as it seems. Buttgeriet said “The idea was to make a statement. Everything that would normally be shown in a horror movie is already over in “Final Girl”. This is maybe just the last five minutes of a horror film. And I was more interested in what was going on in this girl’s head. The basic idea was to do a horror film upside down.” This is realised via an effective use of mise-on-scene, visuals, and sound design, hinting early on that something is amiss with the girl. At times almost dreamlike, and abstract, alluding to a traumatic experience she went through. Sometimes there is a  little vagueness to the narrative, but that was purposeful so as to reflect the girl’s psyche. Non-professional actress Lola Gave as the girl gives a solid, engaging, dialogue free performance that drives the narrative, with her character’s narration being the only dialogue. However, when switching gears it is shocking and disturbing, gory, and blood splattered, as only Buttgeriet could envisage.

Make a Wish directed by Michal Kosakowski is a brutal, disturbing meditation on bigotry and intolerance, and “what if you were in my shoes?” Kosakowski says of his segment “I’m from Poland and I have many stories from my grandparents from the Second World War. Usually if you show movies about neo-Nazis now they are about Islamic topics, but I wanted to put weight on the Polish and German relationship. Knowing all the stories from my grandparents that I build on in the flashback sequence, having that in my mind, I wanted to create these two characters that are of Polish origin but obviously grew up in Germany – but still, the neo-Nazis think that they don’t belong to Germany.” Beginning with a couple who are obviously in love with each other, yet the setting points to the fact that this is not going to be a sweet love story. Juxtaposing the modern setting and heartless brutality with that of the Nazis it takes an unexpected twist. A disturbing atmosphere is accomplished via the perfect melding of visuals, sound design and music. The entire cast give superb no-holds barred performances, making their characters totally believable, heightening an already extremely uncomfortable experience, yet never becoming exploitative or needlessly gratuitous.

The final segment, “Alraune” written and directed by Andreas Marschall, follows a photographer who decides to meet up with a woman he has met online and gets more than he bargained for. Of this final segment Marschall explained the title, “The Alraune is a book from the 1910s and a real existing myth, the myth of the mandragora [mandrake, human-shaped] plant. Hanns Heinz Ewers wrote a book about this plant and it was filmed twice, once in the 1920s and once in the 1950s; but my version doesn’t refer to the movies, just more to the feeling. And to the original myth of this sexual plant.”  He went on to elaborate on the themes “There’s a quote by [German philosopher] Peter Sloterdijk: “Modern times will be considered the era where wishes scare us by getting real.” I think this is pretty much the story, the wishes.” The story takes the form of a psycho-sexual odyssey, with shades of “Eyes Wide Shut“, Argento and Cronenberg; being far less gritty, and more overtly fantastical than the previous two stories. Vividly it drags the audience into the nightmare journey of the character, superbly portrayed by Milton Welsh, culminating in a shocking finale.

Only being familiar with Jorg Buttgeriet, having seen “Nekromantik” a few years ago, but neither Michal Kosakowski or Andreas Marschall, I was not quite sure what to expect, but on this showing it has made me want to check out their other films.

German Angstis a really intriguing, thought-provoking portmanteau film, with all three segments complimenting each other and feeling more a whole than would be expected.

Well worth checking out, especially for fans of extreme, intelligent horror; and also feeling a very good introduction to all three film-makers.

Karl Franks