Monday, December 20, 2010

Will Eisner's Darkest Work?

This short film from Germany, The Super (Der Super, '85), is a troubling and extraordinary piece of work.

It is based on A Contract With God, and Other Tenement Stories by Will Eisner. The novel, which was published in '78, is about the residents of Dropsie Avenue, a Bronx tenement.

This adaptation, set in Depression era Germany, detours much from the original in terms of specific plot points, but the source's grim tone is intact.

Erich Bar is 'Scuggs' (love that name!), a fat, freakish bully who pushes around the Jewish residents of his building.

Scuggs' applecart is well and truly knocked over, though, when he stomps upstairs to confront a tenant about a plumbing issue... and comes face to face with the seemingly angelic Rosy (Natalia Bitnar).

Recovering from his encounter with Rosy, Scuggs retreats to his filthy quarters -- to masturbate and reflect on his desperate existence.

Despite the Super's surly nature, we see a softer side of him in this sequence.

Though not invited, the mischievous Rosy slinks upstairs and visits the vulnerable Scuggs at his lowest ebb, and proposes a deal.

I must note that the luminous Bitnar's performance in The Super is quietly incendiary. Somehow, she walks a fine line between vixen and victim without a single misstep. That she didn't do more acting is a great shame.

Erich Bar, too, is amazing as Scuggs, bouncing effortlessly from surly to strangely child-like.

Although the presentation of this "seduction" sequence is restrained, its power is palpable, and we find our sympathies entering a strange spin cycle.

When Scuggs pays Rosy, the little girl absconds with his cashbox.

As any normal bloke would would do, Scuggs sends his hound after the thieving moppet.

But she conveniently drops a poisoned bone on the stairwell, quickly ending the pursuit.

It becomes obvious at this point that the little vixen's visit to Scuggs' den of greasy desire was part of a more elaborate scheme.

Let me be up front here -- Der Super fucks with us from the very beginning. What we see is never what we ultimately get, and when we do get something, we're not sure it's what we want.

That is the film's magic. That's what elevates it to the pinnacle of transgressive art.

Adapted from the Eisner graphic novel by director Tobias Meinecke, the film is extravagantly photographed by Czech DP Igor Luther, who shot The Tin Drum (and close to a hundred other features and shorts), and smells of Polanski's The Tenant. Music by Gunter Winkler, which swings between music box and dark strings, is the perfect compliment to the potent imagery, and never overwhelms.

Meineckie's depiction of the tenement's frightened residents and portrayal of general paranoia mirrors the current Child Sex panic that is sweeping the globe. I guess something had to replace the Reds under the bed. Now it's Reds (or is that Peds?) in your kid's bed?

Is Scuggs a pedofile? A pathetic opportunist lacking a moral compass? Or a victim of truly dark forces?

Is Rosy just a little girl oblivious to her emerging sexuality? A calculating devil in the body of a juvie?

The answers to these questions are left to the audience.

Like all good fairy tales, this one comes full circle.

A new Super is sought after Scuggs' demise and the little darling is on the front step to greet the first applicant.

He has a dog, too. Though probably not for long.

The film was produced by Klaus Schreyer and quickly fell into obscurity.

News has emerged that A Contract With God... is heading for the big screen again with four directors to helm one story apiece.

It's difficult to imagine how any new take on Der Super would even come close to Meinecke's almost forgotten masterpiece.


  1. Wow
    ...I had no idea this short film existed, Being a huge Eisner fan, I really need to see this but I can't find it anywhere. Do you know of any sites (Streaming or torrents) that might have this film?

  2. Vic -- can't help you there. Like I said, it's almost forgotten.

    I'm a great Eisner admirer myself. Not an expert on him, though.

    Not an expert on anything, actually.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Where did you find this? I cant find anything anywhere else. If yo can can you upload it to Megavideo or something?

  4. otis rampaging heterosexualityDecember 21, 2010 at 3:16 AM

    I look just like that silly fat smelly bastard and i have endless sexual fantasys about buggering gorgeous sexy little blonde girls like her, this might be the perfect film for me.

  5. Phantom, once again its a shame that you`re choosing not to publish my com-girl-ts because as i`ve said girl-y times before they simply represent the truth about what really goes on in all our minds but which has to remain suppressed in this "THE TIME OF LIES, HYPOCRISY AND MURDEROUS SEXUAL REPRESSION" that we were all unfortunate enough to be born into. I really thought some-one like yourself would`ve really appreciated some-one who always tells the truth about what really goes on in the hu-girl mind as opposed to all the other liars and hypocrites who leave com-girl-ts on this site.

  6. I second Vic's emotion; 'wow'.

    I would say you are a dab hand at uncovering hidden gems, el fantomas...

  7. JBH -- my name is clearly associated with this site. See the web link in my profile. Your name isn't. You hide behind a pseudonymn while urging me to publish your comments about your wanting to "bugger" the girl in the stills. I won't do that. If you will tell the truth about who you are, I will gladly publish your comments. I just won't allow this blog (me) to take any legal heat for something an anonymous person says. Please set an example with your future comments of this nature by including your real name.

  8. mandingo -- I try. Hopefully succeed at times.

  9. still "JBH", unfortunately.December 22, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    But phantom, dont you understand, the only reason i have to remain anonymous and hidden is specifically because we are all unfortunate enough to be living in "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION", thats the key point i keep trying to make here (but apparently you seem determined not to listen). As i`ve said before on this site, 30 years from now my lust for 10 year-old girls wont be offensive to anyone because "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION" will be finally and thankfully over. Hopefully in future you will be more tolerent towards my murderous rage and bitterness about having been born into "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION" one of the most loathsome and horrifying times in history to have had to live through.

  10. JBH -- final word on this. Yes, since we are all living in "the time of sexual repression", you will understand my reluctance to publish posts you wouldn't post under your own name. You can always start an anonymous blog. There is plenty of software about that you help you get anonymized.

  11. I still have a VHS copy of the above short... can digitalise if anyone still interested?