The internationally co-produced horror drama film The Golden Glove is a lot to take in. Directed by Fatih Akin, the film is an adaptation of the eponymous novel and chronicles the story of real life German serial killer Fritz Honka, responsible for the murder of at least four women between 1970 and 1975, of whom, he kept the remains of, stowed away in his apartment.
Already mentioned, but, there is a lot to unpack about this film.
Named after the pub Fritz often attends, The Golden Glove offers insight in how Fritz targeted his victims, and shows a perspective on his compulsions and obsessive tendencies, particularly his fixation on a blonde-haired young girl he stumbled across in a small encounter.
Let’s talk briefly about how it was based on a real life serial killer. That, in itself, is problematic, and could perhaps be a deal breaker for many of you. Whereas we have seen adaptations of serial killers like The Zodiac Killer, of Dahmer and Gacy, and the like, usually they are accomplished in a certain way.
For a lot of it, I don’t often frequent features about real life murderers, often because I feel too conflicted by them. Art, I believe, is a free-for-all, but when you’re staging actual human beings who met such a grisly end, I feel like a certain tact should be expected. The Golden Glove does not afford its victims much sensitivity, depicting them as alcohol-addled objects for Fritz Honka to mistreat, humiliate, penetrate, and, ultimately, kill. That might be a difficult obstacle to navigate for some of you. Then again, one person might say the line between tasteful real life serial killers movies and offensive ones is incomprehensible in itself.
Given the artistic liberties of the film already taken, I wish they would have considered distancing themselves with a more original creation.
Something The Golden Glove does do better than a lot of other films I’ve seen, however, is in its portrayal of Fritz Honka. So often when we see serial killers depicted, they are romanticized and a certain sheen to them. They are the methodical evil-incarnates stalking the night, in search of victims to prey on. Everything they do is meticulous, all meant to better sell the disguise of their faux human suit, hiding the monster underneath. Or, at least, that’s the often sought portrayal.
Fritz Honka, on the other hand, is not like that. Fritz does not come across as a hyper-intelligent man, but, instead, a weird guy. Portrayed with a hunch, squint, and speech impediment, actor Jonah Dassler sees Fritz’ brush with life carried out with graceless abandon. His portrayal’s actually fantastic, and he radiates a certain sleaziness that feels very real and very uncomfortable to pay witness to. It also shows clearly depicts is misogyny and his reliance on alcohol, which is an aspect I’ve found faceted with many serial killers, but rarely is it shown as such a contributing factor of the crimes committed.
The make-up artists responsible for Fritz’ look also deserve a lot of credence as well. Search out what Jonah looks like before the film and during, and you’ll see what I mean.
His living arrangement is dodgy, ripe with filth and neglect, as well as nude photographs of women plastered on the walls.
Everything the character does feels peculiar, abhorrent, and unnatural, not unlike the serial killers I mentioned in their faux human suits prior, only difference is that he is not comfortable in his. In other words, it amounts to a very different portrayal of the serial killer, one that “takes the piss” out of it, so to speak.
The film is well shot and well made, capturing the ugliness it needs to, of which, there is a lot of, and yet maintaining a level of high-production and slick polish. I particularly liked one instance when Fritz engages some women and the camerawork makes it feel like he is talking directly to you.
Whereas the sexuality may be gratuitous, the violence, surprisingly, is not. Nearly every woman seen in the film will be shown in a state of undress, and you’ll certainly see more of Fritz than you’ve bargained for, but, as far as actual on-screen bloodshed, it is tamer than you might expect. A lot of the hateful, bloodier acts are off-camera.
The film has a sense of humor as well, or, at least, I think it does. Which, in itself, I am uncertain about. For instance, during a relationship with one of his victims, who actually stays with him for an extended period, Fritz has her sign a contract, with one of the stipulation being she bring her daughter over so he can have sex with her. It isn’t laugh out loud funny, per se, but there is certainly an audacity to it, and there’re a handful of scenes as well, involving him and his victims, that are ripe with black-humor.
I liked The Golden Glove as a film, in spite of itself.
It is not the tautest narrative you’ll ever see, feeling like a slice of life for Fritz, with a whole lot crammed into it. However, in that same respect, that’s something I like about it. Some may say it lacks psychological depth, but, personally, I found the depth present, but not spoon fed, with a lot of visual storytelling to be had from the scenery and the physical performance of our very bad protagonist. Simply watching his behavior and trying to make sense of it, or interpret his more child-like temper and line of reasoning feels insightful. The lead actor’s portrayal is great, and I do like a lot of its approach to the subject-matter, in the sense that I think it does not make Fritz out to be some kind of mastermind or archetypical villain.
Thus, although I am conflicted, I would recommend it, with everything I have said kept in mind.