Louis Nero's HANS
Louis Nero's HANS

Original running time: 105 mins
An Altro Film production
Director: Louis  Nero
Story & screenplay: Adriano  Cavallo, Louis  Nero
Cinematography: Louis  Nero
Music: Louis  Nero
Editor: Louis  Nero
Cast: Daniele  Savoca (Hans Schabe), Simona  Nasi (Rita Fox), Franco  Nero (homeless man / magistrate), Silvano  Agosti (homeless man), Caterina  De Regibus (nurse), Eugenio  Allegri (ill person)

Hans is a 2006 release directed by Louis Nero, a young Torinese filmmaker who’s made a handful of low budget films since his 2000 debut, Golem.  As with most of his work, this is an Artuadian work, heavily influenced by the avant-garde, and about as far from the romantic comedies that make up the majority of domestically produced Italian cinema as it’s possible to get.  Think of Cavallone or Arrabal, add a dash of Greenaway and a big slice of Lynch, and you’re just about there.

Hans Schabe is a young man who suffers from extreme psychological problems, partly because of the behaviour of his disturbed parents, who had beaten and abused him mercilessly, and partly because of the dodgy genes he has inherited from them.  He becomes convinced that the world is becoming consumed by its own waste, that black people in particular are responsible for it all – because most of the poor sods who work at the huge municipal rubbish dumps are black – and, furthermore, that they’re out to get him because he’s discovered their secret.

As his paranoia increases, he begins thinking that people are following him, that body parts are hidden in the bin liners stacked up by the roadside and that he’s being pursued by a driverless dustcart.

Odd man with a box, from HANS
Odd man with a box, from HANS

This is a curious film, chockfull of camera tricks and coloured lenses, deliberately out of focus sequences and people shouting at each other, eating loudly or shagging in extreme slow motion.  Sometimes this all gets a bit much: although the cinematography is fine, certain moments border on the unintentionally comic, which rather pierces the self-consciously morbid atmosphere the filmmakers are intending to conjure up.  Most particularly, the handheld camera sequences of Hans running through the streets of Turin are a bit too like Mitchell and Webb’s Sir Digby Chicken Caeser sketches to take in any way seriously.  Some of the imagery, though, is quite arresting: some weird dudes using a public urinal in unison, Hans’s office drowning under bags of rubbish.

It’s not an entirely successful production, then, and these kinds of deliberately provocative, difficult films are often less substantial than they think they are.  The non-linear approach can only hold the attention for a certain amount of time, and this lasts about 20 minutes longer than it should do, causing it to drag rather in the second half; especially as the little plot that there is goes totally out of the window and it starts becoming a continuous stream of Hans’s demented visions.  This is a real shame, as there’s an entirely logical point after about 85 minutes which should have been the ending, but after a fade out it all just starts up again in much the same fashion.

Token arthouse dwarf, from HANS
Token arthouse dwarf, from HANS

Despite its problems, though, it’s actually rather refreshing to see something that’s so contrary to the polished, Hollywood kind of film-making that has become the norm, and the gloomy strangeness of it all is rather compulsive.  I’d guess that the whole waste theme was inspired by the Neapolitan garbage problems that have been popular in the Italian press for some years now, and there are numerous nods to Nero’s experimental antecedents: the similarly leftfield director Silvano Agosti has a cameo part, and there’s a dwarf dressed in red, a musique concret soundtrack and weird baby, all of which are familiar from David Lynch’s canon.

Although prominently billed in the credits, Franco Nero only really has a bit part – or, to be more exact, two bit parts –  made up of two scenes, which were probably both filmed in a day. The rest of the actors are all unknowns, although several of them seem to be frequent collaborators of the director.

Hans was shown in about 15 cinemas from January to March 2006 as well as several festivals.  It looks to have been extremely low budget, and I can’t imagine it being a barnstorming box-office success.  As far as I know, it has never shown internationally.  Nero’s latest film, Rasputin, again starring Daniele Savoca, is just about to come out in Italy.


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