“Satan’s Brew” – Chris Luedtke

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Satan’s Brew is the story of a poet named Walter Kranz (Kurt Raab) who is short on cash and believes himself to be the reincarnation of Stefan George, a nineteenth century homosexual poet. Throughout the next two hours Kranz pulls all strings that will score him some cash or at least a night in the sack away from his nagging but caring wife Luise (Helen Vita) and crazy brother Ernst (Volker Spengler).

The premise to Satan’s Brew really intrigued me so I was quite excited to pop it in my DVD player once I got it. It just sounded like it was going to be a mad absurd comedy that would just tickle at the funny bone. However, the desire to take it out crept upon me within the first half hour. There was nothing to love in this film. Everything was absurdity for the sake of absurdity and prolific for the sake of being prolific. The few points that the film did try to make had little relevance to the big picture.

I can’t knock the film for its acting though. Everyone played their part to a tee in here which, unfortunately, doesn’t help the film progress any faster. Walter Kranz is even portrayed in such a light that I wouldn’t find it surprising if AFI put him in the Top 100 Villains in the history of cinema. Fassbinder really went out of his way to craft a heartless, emotionless shell of a man who always has one thing on his mind: money. It’s just a shame that the character had to end up in such a crappy script.

Most of the time throughout Satan’s Brew I had no idea where the film was going. Normally this is a good thing; not being able to predict something in film nowadays is a difficult thing to pull off. However, Satan’s Brew manages to make the unknown discomforting and almost ill-inspiring. I always knew that the ultimate goal of Kranz was to get money but the ways in which he goes about it are odd and spontaneous in a bizarre and uncomforting way. Most of the time I felt like I was inside of Kranz’s head but even then I couldn’t understand his thought processes because throughout there are constant hints that Kranz is writing new poetry but it isn’t always stated in a direct manner. His character is so chaotic and cluttered he comes across as intentionally unorganized and this doesn’t help with the script at all; it only makes matters worse.

I can’t recommend Satan’s Brew. The title doesn’t even make sense because it has nothing to do with Satan or a brew, much less a combination of the both metaphorically or literally. Also, its sheer bizarre and prolific elements pull it past the point of comedy. The humor is dry and jet black, lacking in wit. I actually felt bad at a few points as though Fassbinder was consistently punching eight-year-olds in the face with the expectation for me to laugh rather than pull back in shock. Basically this whole film feels more of a test to see how big of a dick Kranz can really be.

Rating: ★☆☆☆

-Chris Luedtke

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