Dhe restlessness and tension are immediately noticeable. The camera cannot stay still. A large group, adults, teenagers, children, are sitting in a meadow, it’s a summer day in the country. Only one turns his back on everyone in his high-backed chair. Another plays the guitar and sings home-made verses about how much Schorsch earned for the group. And the Francois. A woman films everything with a video camera.
Then, out of the blue, the record of good deeds becomes a tribunal. One fell in love. He is put in the pillory. He is mocked. And cast out. In between, the camera shows two adolescents touching each other briefly. It will be about her, this casual look makes that clear. And about him, about the man who has turned his back on everyone.
He then sits in court, the woman who has led the ceremony so far steps aside. The camera circles him. He gropes a young woman. His gaze is piercing, everyone is spellbound, waiting for what he is going to do. He slurs a “dad” over and over again, and then everyone stammers “dad” in baby talk, until the insecurity dissolves into collective regression.
repression and regression
The whole film is in the bud in this fluidly and precisely staged opening sequence. Everything is there: the experience of community, arbitrariness and humiliation; the joy and the fear; the spontaneity and the conformity; the ideal of free love and the group’s ruthless sanction if one does not want it.
In Christopher Roth’s “Servus Papa. See You in Hell” is about Otto Mühl, who preferred to call himself Otto Muehl, and his notorious commune. Roth co-wrote the screenplay with Jeanne Tremsal, who grew up in the commune. Today she is an actress. It’s not a thoroughly autobiographical film, says Tremsal. But he is saturated with experience in a way that no research could match.
The film does not spread illusions about the Muehl commune. It shows the oppression and hints at the sexual and psychological abuse succinctly but very effectively. One sees how a fixed idea of freedom turns into its opposite. “To assert abstractions in reality means to destroy reality,” Hegel once wrote.
So the film isn’t a raging reckoning. He’s working something up. His gaze is that of Jeanne. Jana McKinnon, who was Christiane F. in the Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo series, keeps the character beautifully balanced. She doesn’t want to attract attention, doesn’t want to be excluded, but she also has her own mind. So she has no choice but to become rebellious as soon as she falls in love with 14-year-old Jean. Tremsal herself has taken on a very special role: she plays Jeanne’s mother.
Rebellion against Otto’s order
“Servus Papa” is Roth’s first feature film since “Baader” in 2002. He then worked primarily as a visual artist. Both films, “Baader” and “Servus Papa”, have something in common: a protagonist who presents himself as the center of the world in an arrogant and ruthless manner. The car thief who became a terrorist, the action artist who wanted to create a new society.
In “Servus Papa”, however, the strength to set off does not come from Muehl, but from the young people. They then also burst the ideological prison in which he has put them. The older women jealously compete for the favor of the guru, who is above all a dirty old man. Clemens Schick plays him convincingly because he’s not looking for parody. Roth and Tremsal avoid what often happens with such a subject: making a world and its inhabitants appear so hideous that you quickly get tired of doing it to yourself.
It’s a film that makes you very awake, precisely because it doesn’t want to wake you up loudly all the time. He is interested in why people fit into such communities – and how one resists their promise of salvation by following the path of one’s own heart. It does not always have to be true and correct, but it has the advantage that it does not require any sacrifice for supposedly higher purposes.
In the cinema from Thursday.