Going into Your Mind
Das Weisse Rauschen
Despite having won the prestigious newcomer Max Ophüls Prize at Saarbrücken, Hans Weingartner's Das weisse Rauschen (The White Roar, 2000) was shockingly rejected by the selection panel of the Neue deutsche Filme section at this year's Berlinale (See the article "Panel Games" in CER). The film was supposed to be screened only once at Berlin (exclusively for distributors and press!). Word about the film had spread rapidly ,however, and the auditorium was jammed tightly with people sitting on every bit of available floor space, forcing the organisors to put on a second screening to accommodate all those who could not get in the first time.
Das weisse Rauschen is Weingartner's graduation film and is the first feature length film to be made by the Kunsthochschule für Medien of Cologne in co-production with the Cologne-based production company Cameo and the Filmbüro NW. It is also the most innovative, riveting and gripping piece of film-making that I have experienced in years. And yet the topic, the progressive schizophrenia of a twentyone-year-old, potentially has everything about it to turn the viewer off.
Lukas, played by Daniel Brühl, arrives in Cologne to be with his older sister, Kati (Anabelle Lachatte), who lives with her dope-head boyfriend, Jochen (Patrick Joswig). In the beginning, it all looks like the scene is being set for a pseudo teen flick. They get pissed, smoke lots of dope, eat magic mushrooms and have parties. But soon we realise that although the magic mushroom effect has worn off Kati and Jochen, Lukas still seems to be plagued by it.
He starts to hear voices, which he tries to drown out with other sounds, but it is a losing battle. His usual placid and seemingly gentle personality becomes increasingly unpredictable, unbalanced and aggressive. Brühl's acting talent in this respect is phenomenal. In looks he is interesting enough; a cross between River Phoenix and Ewan Macgregor. But the dark, brooding terror he portrays as Lukas, coupled with the complete contrast of Lukas' puppy dog personality is superbly played. He is in every sense of the word mesmerising as an actor.
On the technical side, Weingartner used small digital video cameras in rooms, so that the camera equipment was not in the way of the actors. He did not provide the actors with a script, but with a ninety-nine-page "treatment." The result is that the action often looks like fly on the wall observation, and the script seems very spontaneous. One can't help but wonder how many hours of filming were done and how diligent the editor must have been.
Taking a walk on the wild side
Rather than identifying with the sister, who is the audience's connection to the "sane" world, the audience feels increasingly connected to Lukas and his gradual disintegration. Lukas' schizophrenia attacks become almost physically tangible through very clever use of camera and sound. Whenever he is about to have one, the coloured footage moves to black and white.
Most frighteningly, the sounds and voices that Lukas hears drone and thump through the auditorium, almost inducing heart palpitations. Then, as you start to recognise the "symptoms," you virtually feel as if you yourself are experiencing the attack. It was very, very frightening. The middle-aged man sitting next to me during the screening, for example, hunched over, his head between his knees, every time an attack started.
Weingartner breaks down our stereotypes of schizophrenia, and it is the sheer normality of Lukas that makes his degeneration into the disorder so disturbing
Apparently one in a hundred of us, cross culturally, will suffer from it. Yet, other than drugs to ward off the symptoms, there is no cure. There is also little understanding, and schizophrenia distances it's sufferers from society as we label them "untouchable." We don't like to talk about this illness, because we fear it.
Das weisse Rauschen will hopefully help to raise awareness about this disorder. Not to be affected by this film is impossible and to avoid seeing it because of its potential discomfort to you, will deprive you of a unique cinematic experience. This film is a "thriller" without a crime, a "lovestory" without a couple and a "tragedy" without an unhappy ending.
Elke de Wit, 26 March 2001
Also of interest: