DIE HAMBURGER KRANKHEIT (1979)
aka The Hamburg Syndrome
Article 4146 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Peter Fleischmann
Featuring Helmut Griem, Fernando Arrabal, Carline Seiser
Country: France / West Germany
What it is: Epidemic black comedy?
When a plague breaks out in Hamburg, several people break out of quarantine and make their way out of the city… only to find that the plague is more widespread.
For the first half of the movie, the odd touches and eccentricities of some of the various characters weren’t prominent enough to shake me from the belief that the movie had a more or less focused story to tell. Then, at shortly after the halfway point, an event occurs that is so audaciously unexpected that you find yourself wondering where the story would go from there. Unfortunately, what does happen is that the eccentricities and weirdness that was kept in check during the first half take over in the second, and the movie turns from a drama into a freaky black comedy. It’s as if the inmates have taken over the asylum, removing the center of the movie and leaving us confused and rudderless. This still might have worked if the characters had been fun and interesting rather than unpleasant and annoying, but such is not the case. There’s still the odd moment here and there that works, but to me, this is a prime example of what happens when a movie goes off the tracks at the halfway point.