[ REVIEW ]

 

Initiation (2009)  (ѧ)

Directer: Petra Zöbnek Writter: Peter Kern (based on an idea of F. M. Reifenberg) Running time: 92 minute

Country: Germany, Austria Language: German Genre: Political Drama Subtitle: English
Starring:
Gustav Tritzinsky - Helmut Berger, Axel - Harry Lampl, Jacob / Christina Thürmer - Melanie Kretschmann,
Lippi - Michael Steinocher, Snoopy - Manuel Rubey, Wolfi - Matthias Franz Stein, Peter - Oliver Rosskopf,
Willi - Heribert Sasse, Dr. Kraake - Gregor Seberg

 

 

 
 
   

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Storyline :
16-year-old Axel falls out with his step-father and becomes involved in a neo-nazi gang. To join the gang he has to prove himself by killing a social worker. He runs away and takes refuge in a dry-cleaning shop run by 80-year-old Gustav Tritzinsky (Helmut Berger). Axel reminds Gustav of the lover he had during the war, his first love whom he betrayed to the Gestapo, so to atone for that betrayal he takes Axel in. Now Axel has to choose between his homophobic street friends and the friendship and obsession of a homosexual old man.

16-year old Axel and his clique are rioting in a residential home. There he meets the 80-year old Gustav who gains interest in the young boy, as he reminds him of his lost love.

 

Press
Berlinale 2010 – Panorama/Austria
Purity and perversion in Initiation
Viennese director Peter Kern, a Berlinale regular whose 60th birthday coincided yesterday with the Berlinale’s anniversary, presented for this occasion his new film, Blutsfreundschaft, in the Panorama section. Its German-language title refers to the friendship sealed by blood, while its international title, Initiation, evokes more generally all the rituals witnessed in the film. Here Kern treats viewers to a cast including an ageing Helmut Berger, who is still absolutely fascinating.

The word choice is no accident, the etymological relationship between fascination and fascism referring directly to the theme of the film, which through the character of Axel (Harry Lampl), a young outcast and drifter, forges a strange link between two diametrically opposed communities in the Austrian provinces. The boy is pushed by a Neo-Nazi group he tries to join into stabbing the manager of a soup kitchen. After the deed, he takes refuge at the house of Gustav (Berger), an old homosexual who runs a laundry frequented by extravagant-looking ephebes, and who decides to take this new, youthful-bodied "nephew" under his wing.

With the parallel between these two worlds thus drawn on a narrative level, we soon realise that it doesn’t end there, for the stain that Gustav has for years been trying to wash away and atone for in his dry-cleaning shop is the death of his first lover and blood-friend, who was executed when the two boys were members of Hitler Youth. And while the Neo-Nazis profess a fierce hatred for "queers", certain party leaders are themselves gay.

On an aesthetic level, the similarities between the two worlds are immediately obvious. Moreover, the eroticisation of Nazi rituals is at the heart of the film right from the punk concert scene, where the bare chests of the young Austrian men extolling not the mixing but the purity of blood brush against each other against a backdrop of body worship, while one of the party leaders masturbates in front of a fascist tract. Here, it’s the skinheads’ intoxication with violence, with their litany of vile slogans, which is clearly presented as absolute perversion.

The subject is certainly developed in a less brutal way compared to Pasolini’s famous Salo – Kern subtly explores a whole range of characters and different attitudes and a series of flashbacks retracing the past trauma that continues to haunt Gustav – but the main difference here is that there’s an alternative. Faced with people devoid of emotional ties, confronted with the hypocritical promiscuity that tinges their false solidarity (established through cruel rituals), Axel has the possibility to choose the other side and opt for the true friendship that binds the group of transvestites and homosexuals, who have their rites and disguises but also the grace not to take themselves too seriously and, above all, much "purer" relations.
    


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