8 August 2008 | bkoganbing
Death In Dusseldorf
I have no doubt that when German director Peter Kern was creating the character of Axel for this film he must have seen the American independent film Johnny Suede and copied Brad Pitt's exaggerated pompadour hairstyle. Max Kellermann as Axel and Brad as Johnny Suede must have some industrial strength gel to maintain that hair.
Gossenkind or Street Kid for us in the Anglo-American world is a tribute film, to put it mildly, to Thomas Mann's Death In Venice which Lucchino Visconti made back in the early Seventies. The story is now updated from early last century Venice to 1990s Dusseldorf. The film was completely shot there in the streets and surrounding countryside and in the gay bars of Dusseldorf.
Winfried Glatzeder has the Dirk Bogarde part. But Bogarde was on holiday in Venice, here Glatzeder is on his home turf in Germany. He's your typical closeted gay man, marrying for convention's sake and having a kid. But at night he frequents the bars, specifically Dusseldorf's hustler bars.
His wife notices the lack of interest in him lately and of course being a woman with needs, she's got herself a young boyfriend and meets at her sister's farm for rendezvous.
A friend offers to set Glatzeder with this young kid and when he sees him it's Death In Venice all over.
But Dirk Bogarde's object of affection was young and angelic Tadzio. This kid Axel as played by Kellermann is anything, but angelic. He's a bisexual street kid, who's been tricking for years. He's got a substance abusing mother and a sadistic stepfather who occasionally sexually abuses Kellermann. Glatzeder and Kellermann's meeting and subsequent action leads to disaster all around.
Although American audiences will be shocked in any event, I should point out that in Germany the age of consent is 16. Even though at 14 Axel is pushing the envelope real hard and he's still a felony.
It's hard to believe now, but Germany now has one of the most active and vibrant gay scenes in the world. But Glatzeder grew up in an era before Stonewall and he's a prisoner of the values of that world. In this country he could have been Senator Larry Craig.
Gossenkind has not got the greatest of production values, but the performances are decent and Thomas Mann might appreciate this film.