51ST SAN SEBASTIAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL - 9/18/2003-9/27/2003
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2003
(written by Laura Clifford except where noted as Robin)

Schussangst (Fear of Shooting, aka Gun Shy) (Official Selection)
Schussangst The last screened competing official selection turns out to be the surprise winner of the Golden Shell.  Lukas (Fabian Hinrichs) is performing his civil service by delivering meals on wheels. In a blackly amusing set of vignettes, he finds one of his customers has hung herself (her neighbor asks him what's for lunch), passes another customer's john on his way in and finds a bunch of punks have helped themselves to unattended meals.

On the bus, a pretty young woman tosses him a note before disembarking.  Reading 'help me,' Lukas races to catch up with the woman who asks if she can stay at his apartment.  Isabella (Lavinia Wilson) is oddly forthcoming, discussing the merits of masturbation with a candle vs. a banana in a condom, but stops short of encouraging advances from Lukas.  Besotted, Lukas follows her to her martial arts class and is shocked to see her having brutal sex afterwards with an older man who turns out to be her stepfather.  Intent on saving the young woman, Lukas uses his senior hooker for a contact to obtain a rifle and chats up a sharpshooting war veteran to learn how to use it.

As adapted from Dirk Kurbjuweit's novel by the author and director Dito Tsintsadze ("Lost Killers"), "Schussangst" is supposed to be about the disintegration of Lukas' mental stability, but the actor and his director do not successfully build his obsession with enough intensity to make the thriller aspect of the film work.  What works beautifully are all the moments of black comedy that give flavor, but don't necessarily build upon the film's themes, like Lukas's wacky neighbor who has immersed himself in all things North Korean.  The film's title is a neat bit of irony as Romberg is a self-help guru who lectures on conquering one's fears just as Lukas is building up the nerve to kill him.  "Schussangst" is an interesting oddity that never quite hangs together.  C+

Robin:

Lukas Eiserbeck (Fabian Hinrichs) is a quiet loner who, for his national service obligation, has taken the job of delivering meals-on-wheels to the elderly and infirm. At night he rows on the river that goes through the city and everything is peaceful – until Isabella (Lavinia Wilson) comes into his life. Suddenly, his life isn’t so peaceful anymore in “Gun-shy.”

Georgian helmer Dito Tsintadze collaborated with the author of the novel, Schussangst, and they came up with a quirky film about a young man, a misfit and outsider, who manages to survive, at least at first, in society. When Isabella enters his life he falls in love but it is a passion that will remain unrequited. As his obsession for her grows he becomes increasingly unstable and unpredictable. He secretly follows her through her daily routing and learns that she is involved, sexually (and possibly unwillingly), with her stepfather, Romberg (Johan Leysen). A seed is planted in Lukas’s mind and he hatches a plan to rid Isabella of her tormentor.

This oddball story takes some unexpected turns along the way with a variety of characters coming through. Lukas’s eccentric neighbor, Mr. Krausser (Thorsten Merten), loves all things North Korean and has a penchant for their whiskey, spiked with a poisonous snake in the bottle. Beckmann (Rudolph W. Marnitz) is a one-eye ex-commando and paratrooper, one of Eiserbeck’s meal-delivery clients, who teaches the increasingly troubled younger man how to shoot a gun. Lukas then buys a rifle from a man known as The Albanian (Lasha Bakradze). A policeman, Detective Johannsen (Christoph Waltz), has Lukas as the prime suspect in the nocturnal break in at the local boathouse and he keeps tabs on the loner. There is also a diver who likes to float, at night, like a dead man on the same river that Lukas rows.

This collection of character is quirky and amusing but does take away from the angst that we see growing in Lukas. There is a creepiness to Eiserbeck that is not explored as well as it could be, mainly because of the distractions of the colorful supporting cast. Still, it is an interesting darkly comedic drama that ends on a, rightfully, abrupt note.

“Gun-shy” was awarded, in a controversial decision, the Gold Shell award for best picture at the San Sebastian Film Festival. While I enjoyed the film’s dark humor and quirky story, it was not my choice, by a long shot, for the prestigious award. I give it a B-.


Donostia award winner Robert Duvall press conference
                                                    Robert Duvall

The great American character actor is immediately asked about the influence of "The Godfather" on his career and states simply that the film 'helped us all.'  When asked to comment on politics, as has his cowinner Penn, the senior gets cranky.  'I'm not here for a political debate.  I think Sean Penn is a pretty good actor at times, but there are a lot of things about him I don't like.'  Whew!  Too bad no one got these two together in a room for a smackdown!

Duvall goes on to talk about how the Western is 'our' genre and says his role in the TV miniseries "Lonesome Dove" was his favorite part.  He's asked about receiving a 'Citizen of Honor' from Buenos Aires and says Argentina is his favorite place, that it's like a second home and that he's accepted there.  Asked about how he chooses his parts he replies that he has an emotional response to food and it is much the same thing with roles.  As for regrets, he says he's sure there are some, in particular having turned down the lead in "Jaws."  He tells of how he shared an apartment in the early days with Hackman and Hoffman, but that he 'never sees those guys' because he lives in Virginia.  He worked with Hackman seven years prior and hasn't seen him since. He has one character actor friend in L.A. that he likes to talk to on the phone during sporting events.  As for what's next on his agenda, he says a remake of "The Old Man and the Sea" is a possibility.

Duvall is swamped with autograph seekers at the end of the press conference and is very agreeable to everyone.

The festival is winding down, so we spend the rest of the day revisiting favorite pinchos bar



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