The Golden Glove, writer-director Fatih Akin’s follow-up to his award-winning thriller In the Fade, is one of the year’s most challenging films and is sure to be extremely divisive. Thoroughly disgusting but on purpose, it is understandable why this movie won’t work for most, but it will stick in one’s mind long after the credits roll.
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Heinz Strunk, itself inspired by the true story of Fritz Honka, the film follows a serial killer who wreaks havoc on the red light district of Hamburg in the 1970’s. This year, there have been multiple movies focusing on notorious real-life serial killers. However, unlike those other films, The Golden Glove in no way mythicizes the killer, instead presenting him in his full depravity.
Even though Honka is the protagonist of the movie, he is never presented in a light that is likable or even remotely sympathetic. Never will the audience feel bad for the character, but they are not supposed to. Rather, Akin seems to want the audience to be disgusted by Honka and his actions, and for the most part, he succeeds.
Jonas Dassier’s performance as Honka is pretty amazing. Dassier transforms into the character of Honka, and thanks to a combination of Honka’s dedication to the part and a great make-up department, he is able to fully sell both the inner and outer ugliness of the character. Some of the most memorable performances come from actors who play difficult characters like these, and Dassier stacks up.
Even more impressive is that Honka’s victims are not presented in a much more compelling light. While they aren’t unlikable to the extent that the audience will feel like they deserve to die, they aren’t particularly likable either. Nevertheless, despite the fact that there is not a character with whom the audience can easily identify, the overwhelming hatred that will be felt towards the protagonist is enough to create the intended impact.
The thing about this film that is likely to put most viewers off is its abundance of grotesque imagery. Even when there isn’t a ton of violence, the movie is very aggressive and repulsive, and many viewers may find that hard-to-watch. That said, this seems to be very much purposeful, as the point of the film is to leave the audience upset at the inhumanity of what they have just witnessed.
On a technical level, the movie is quite strong, especially the set design. During the credits, some photos and blueprints of the real-life Honka’s residence is shown, and that allows the audience to understand and appreciate the level of detail that Akin put into his film. Every frame of the movie feels like it is covered in grime, and this does an excellent job of making the viewer feel uncomfortable and repulsed by the film.
Admittedly, The Golden Glove relies on shock value to get across its message. Yet despite the fact that the movie is revolting (sometimes almost unbearably so), it is a disturbing and harrowing portrait of the lowest depths of humanity.
The Golden Glove opens in theaters on September 27.