“Look at them: the cooler they are, the more shots they’ve had.”
A neglected teen (Natja Brunckhorst) in 1970s Berlin is drawn by her new boyfriend (Thomas Haustein) into a subculture of heroin use and prostitution.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Alcoholism and Drug Addiction
- David Bowie Films
- Downward Spiral
- German Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “controversial, grueling film” — “based on actual transcripts” — is “not as exploitative as you might have heard, but just as depressing”. He notes that it is “extremely graphic, unrelenting in its grimness, [and] believable” — and while it’s “obviously not for all tastes”, it “stays in memory”. Despite presenting drug culture as a no-man’s-land of desperation and debasement, the film became (and remains) a cult hit — due in part to an extended cameo concert appearance by David Bowie. What’s most impressive about the film (which is indeed a grueling, over-long viewing experience) is how authentically it portrays the gradual, almost inevitable allure of drugs to young teens seeking social approval and a sense of community. Christiane is a spunky girl, and resists heroin numerous times until she finally decides to “just try it” — first snorting, then injecting, always insisting she won’t let herself lose control, even as she gradually compromises her morals to earn money for drugs. She and her boyfriend — in perhaps the film’s most infamous scene — go through a harrowing withdrawal (rivaling that in Trainspotting), but they immediately relapse, and witness several of their street friends dying. Sadly, the real “Christiane F.” — who outed herself at an early age to help promote the film — remained an addict her entire life, and noted in a 2013 interview that while she was near death due to poor health, she had no plans to change her lifestyle.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Natja Brunckhorst as Christiane
- An appropriately seedy view of drug addiction
- Jurgen Knieper’s score
Yes, as a cult favorite.