Hamburg, Germany in the early 70’s. It’s a regular day at the tiny, cramped pub Der Goldene Handschuh (The Golden Glove). A playlist with depressing German schlager songs are being played in the background as we get introduced to a group of outlived and wrinkled prostitutes, and hardcore alcoholics. One of them likes to suck on used tampons, by the way. Yuck. But the worst of them is probably Fritz Honka, a hideous, disgusting, crooked aberration of a man, who brings hookers to his filthy horror chamber of an attic apartment that has not been cleaned since the last century, and stinks worse than you probably can imagine.
Fritz is a deranged, greasy homicidal maniac who develops a bad habit of killing the women he brings home with him in the most brutal ways, in pure volcanic rage like an orangutan on speed, if they don’t meet his sexual standards. He then cuts the bodies in pieces with a saw while listening to German percussion music, wraps them in newspapers, and hides them in a crawl space attic that only he has access to through his apartment. Although Fritz is trying to hold back the corpse stench by hanging tree-shaped air fresheners (wunderbaums) around his attic apartment, the neighbor who lives underneath him is constantly complaining that it stinks. And it’s only a matter of time before there are so many decomposing body parts dumped in there that maggots starts to find their way between the cracks and says hello to the neighbors.
This film is based on the true story about serial killer Fritz Honka, who killed up to four prostitutes from 1970 to 1975 in the red light district of Hamburg. The one we see in the brutal opening scene was 42-year-old Gertraud Bräuer. A hairdresser and part-time prostitute who refused to have sex with him, and ended up as his first known victim. She was sawed into small pieces, and dumped in the bushes in the local area. The remains were found by the police, but Honka escaped. For this time. It would take four years before Honka killed again. The infamous bar, Der Goldene Handschuh, is still open with the new banner “Honka Stub”. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a cheap statue of the guy inside as well. A stage play of Fritz Honka has also been performed in Hamburg. It’s also worth mentioning that writer and Director Faith Atkin grew up in the same area in Hamburg during the same time period Fritz Honka was finally captured by the police.
The most remarkable thing here is how raw and downright authentic everything looks. The technical aspects, all from set-design, sound, photography, editing, is top notch. The costumes are right on spot, and they really did an impressive job to reconstruct Fritz Honka’s horror attic. The 1970s-look is flawless, and the grim, thick atmosphere of pure despair and hopelessness in The Golden Glove pub reeks all over the place, and feels like it was shot in a real pub with real hookers, alcoholics and whatnot. All the actors here are hundred percent dedicated, no matter how far the scenes go and what endless humiliations the actors have to put themselves through. It all seemed like a pure nightmare to shoot, especially for the poor ladies. If they all got away with their mind in check and no need for any therapy sessions after this grueling experience, then just be impressed and give them a big applause.
Films such as Maniac and Henry: Portrait of a A Serial Killer comes to mind, but our friend Fritz Honka takes it on a whole new level. It’s brutal, yet absurdly hilarious at the same time. I haven’t seen anything like it, really. It’s a pretty unique and distinctive look at a madman’s everyday life, living in a hellish, chaotic, stinky downward spiral of an environment where you almost expect the stench of piss, shit, sweat, booze and other extreme body odors dissipating from the screen to attack your nostrils at any moment. Thanks to Honka, that bastard, I can’t enjoy the smell of wunderbaums the same way again, that’s for sure. And speaking of the star himself, Jonas Dassler, he’s just absolut fantastisch as Fritz Honka. An eleven of ten-star performance. Cheers for that, or as they say in Deutschland: Tost!
So, make yourself welcome to The Golden Rabbit Hole. Just be glad you’re only witnessing this from a screen, and is free to take a shower when you’re starting to feel too itchy.
Director: Fatih Akin
Original title: Der goldene Handschuh
Country & year: Germany | France, 2019
Actors: Jonas Dassler, Margarete Tiesel, Adam Bousdoukos, Marc Hosemann, Katja Studt, Martina Eitner-Acheampong, Philipp Baltus, Hark Bohm, Greta Sophie Schmidt, Tristan Göbel, Laurens Walter, Victoria Trauttmansdorff, Tom Hoßbach, Jessica Kosmalla, Heinz Strunk