Der Fangschuß (Coup de grâce) (1976) Volker Schlöndorff

Der Fangschuß (Coup de grâce) (1976)

Genre: Drama | War
Director: Volker Schlöndorff
Country: France | West Germany
Language: German with French parts
Subtitles: English, Spanish (.srt files)
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 1.85:1
Length: 97mn
File: Dvdrip Xvid Avi - 704x384 - 23fps - 1.36gb

The Baltic states in 1919 are witnessed two years after the Russian revolution, the country is torn by civil war between the Whites and the Reds and the old Prussian nobility that realizes that this is no longer Germany. Konrad and his volunteer corps have withdrawn from Reval to his parents' castle in Kratovice determined to defend the outdated feudal system. Konrad's sister Sophie maintains friendly relations with the rebels, especially Gregori Loew, the son of the Jewish village tailor. Although she shares his views, she lacks the strength to tear herself out of her surroundings. She falls more and more deeply in love with Konrad's friend Erich von Lhomond, a dashing gentleman rider who "likes to fight a losing battle" because he would only be an insignificant figure in ordinary life. He is not particularly interested in women and is attracted much more strongly to Konrad than to Sophie. He brutally rejects her love but responds more and more jealously as she throws herself headlong into various affairs with his comrades in the corps. Things come to a head at Christmas: when Sophie kisses young Volkmar von Plessen, who wants to marry her, Erich slaps her in front of her aunt and the other officers. She only admits to her love once more. Erich orders her to wait until he returns from a foray against the Bolsheviks. However, Sophie has in the meantime learned the truth about Erich von Lhomond and her brother. She sharply demands an answer from her beloved and then leaves the castle to join Gregori Loew and his band of rebels. The situation in the Baltic has become hopeless for Lhomond and his fighters. Konrad has been killed in one of the last battles and the remainder of his troop decides to head for Germany. Sophie and her comrades are captured by Erich in a battle for a farm during which Gregori Loew is killed. The other rebels are shot at Lhomond's command. Sophie demands that Erich execute her himself.

Volker Schlöndorff had first come across Marguerite Yourcenar's novel "Der Fangschuss" in 1965 while working on his film TÖRLESS. Even then, he had been attracted by the idea of making a film based on the novel by an author who had become famous for her historical novels and was the only woman in the Académie Française. FANGSCHUSS follows on from TÖRLESS in both form and content, both films displaying the same respect and caution towards the literary original; both are produced in black-and-white and both are basically about suppressed sexuality and reactionary behaviour with the aim of revealing sadomasochistic relations and fascist tendencies. Volker Schlöndorff has by no means left the political arena to concentrate on a historical subject or purely human problem in this film, which was produced one year after the sensational success of DIE VERLORENE EHRE DER KATHARINA BLUM; the "problematical relationship between men and women" (Volker Schlöndorff) portrayed by the film in the form of a highly dramatic affair is closely related to the social and historical background of a struggle between supporters of the old order and the supporters of new social ideas. Sophie is not only driven to join the rebels by Erich's emotional coldness and the humiliating realization that he used her to come closer to her brother, but also by her revulsion of war and the male solidarity among the officers, as well as by the realization that they need the war "in order to live out their lives" and satisfy their secret cravings. Schlöndorff clearly contrasts the scenes showing the private relations and strains between the protagonists with scenes showing the fight against the rebels and the shooting of prisoners. The leading actors and particularly Margarethe von Trotta have prevented the film from fulfilling its intention of telling the "story of an act of humiliation ending in revolt" (Schlöndorff). Margarethe von Trotta's Sophie remains a shadowy figure capable of expressing her anger and defiance at Erich's cool remoteness, but she fails to display the emancipation of a woman who sees through the men's military madness and rebels against it. Sophie's revolt is emotional, not political. However, the subject of Sophie's desire, the handsome Erich, is also a somewhat pale figure and the erotic triangle between Erich, Konrad and Sophie is created in the viewer's imagination rather than in the reality of the film. Schlöndorff's film thus lacks the dramatic core intended by the director, but he compensates this shortcoming with dense atmospheric images of the barren snowscape and the castle's rundown interiors. With their black-and-white shading and their grey tones reminiscent of the films produced by Jean-Pierre Melville, Schlöndorff's "first mentor" to whom this film is dedicated, these images evoke a decaying, dying world in which real, open relations between people have become impossible. Despite the weakpoints in the screenplay and in the handling of the actors, this gives DER FANGSCHUSS a dramatic presence making the historical situation transparent to the present on at least an emotional level if not on an intellectual plane. It is a powerful film... full of noise and furor...


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