By Christina Schultz
Jan Henrik Stahlberg’s Fikkefuchs, released in Germany in November of 2017, did not make a lot of money at the box office, nor did it gain a lot of attention. Perhaps because it was overshadowed by the blockbuster German comedy Fack ju Göhte 3, released three weeks prior on October 26, 2017, and other big studio pictures. Or perhaps because the topic just doesn’t seem that interesting: a fallen, albeit self-proclaimed, sex God finds out he has a son and the two form an odd relationship while they embark on a quest to get chicks. It gets better, though. The 50s-something father, Richard “Rocky” Ockers (played by none other than director Stahlberg himself), is a misogynist and his son shows that the apple, his son Thorben (whom he calls Thorsten, which hilariously highlights Rocky's stubborn ignorance), not only doesn’t fall far from the proverbial tree, but that it has taken root and grown into an even bigger, more misogynistic tree. The son winds up in a psychiatry clinic for sexually assaulting a cashier at a grocery store. Whereas the father once could charm his way into women’s pants, or so he claims, the son has not an ounce of charm and in his delusion thinks all women are DTF.
The only redeeming things about this movie in my opinion are the truly excellent acting performances of Stahlberg and Franz Rogowski (Victoria, In den Gängen). The two leads are uncompromising in their commitment to the wretchedness of the characters. The characters themselves, however, do not redeem themselves at all, except for Thorben/Thorsten. Maybe. But not really. He pulls through for his dying father, but I just don’t think he transforms into a better person by the end of the film. He has intercourse with a Greek woman who luckily can’t understand what he’s saying and somehow the attraction is mutual - although he still speaks to her like they are in a bad porno, so in a sleazy, objectifying way. So I’m not convinced he has learned his lesson and will treat women better after his consensual sexual encounter on the Greek beach. The fact the woman he connects with is not German seems to be the key to his “success,” not his new-found respect for women. German-speaking women, such as the cashier he assaults or the other women he verbally accosts, would be able to understand his misogynistic and aggressive language and behavior and thus reject him, which suggests that the cycle of his violence can only be broken abroad. However, the films concludes in Germany. Rocky succumbs to cancer and after the funeral, Thorben abandons his father’s dog and walks off into the unknown. Not exactly commendable behavior. Not exactly rehabilitated characters. Rocky dies and Thorben never has his epiphany. Stahlberg lets them get off easy (pun somewhat intended).
Stahlberg also lets his male characters be presented as victims. We, society, should pity men because we place too many, and ofttimes contradictory, expectations on them. They should be excellent lovers, the main breadwinners, physically fit, sensitive but tough, etc. etc. While it may be true that men feel pressured and insecure - and I’d like to add we should be respectful of everyone and their feelings (except maybe for rapists - personal thing, #sorrynotsorry) - it is highly troubling that the film fails to shake the father-son duo’s hubris. It is equally troubling that the “c-word,” or Fotze in German, which I take issue with enough on its own, is thrown around with reckless abandon like the dice at a Vegas casino. While the certainly has its funny moments, and some really gross and uncomfortable ones, it is more provocative than anything else. I think it is meant to be a (poor) response to the growing number of people, myself included, supporting the Time’s Up, #MeToo and Equal Pay movements because, you know, men have to defend themselves from the threat of liberals and feminists!* Whatever side you’re on (but hopefully not on the a$$hole side), Fikkefuchs ultimately tries to sell the idea that male insecurities somehow excuse misogyny and rather than teach the two wretches a lesson, they can either die or walk away from the sexual crimes unscathed. Nope. Sorry. That's just not good enough anymore. The times they are a-changin. And one thing’s for sure: time is definitely up.
*Please note the sarcasm here: the author is what most people would consider a liberal and a feminist, if you’re into labels.
**Other side note: I find it striking that the film was reviewed almost exclusively by males, although as Beatrice Behn pointed out in our interview, the world of film criticism, like so many other professions, is dominated by white males. I would be curious to read what other female audience members and reviewers think of this film. Please feel free to post your respectful comments! I’m certainly glad that the male reviewers generally found the film disgusting and even mentioned the #MeToo debate. Here is one example, in German, written by Oliver Kaever: http://www.zeit.de/kultur/film/2017-11/fikkefuchs-film-jan-henrik-stahlberg-sexismusdebatte/komplettansicht