The Golden Glove, directed by Faith Akin, is an adaption of the best-selling true-crime novel ‘Der Goldene Handschuh’ by Heinz Strunk and follows the life of infamous German serial killer Fritz Honka (Jonas Dassler). Honka murdered at least 4 women from the period of 1970 to 1975 in Hamburg. He finds his victims, inebriated women, at the ‘Golden Glove’ bar in the heart of St Pauli’s red light district. After copious bottles of schnapps the women are sexually assaulted, raped then dismembered and their remains, shrouded in stained sheets, are discarded to be forgotten about in the walls of Honka’s attic apartment. Consistently throughout the film we are reminded of the slow decay of Honka’s victims with visitors and neighbours asking ‘what is that smell?’
This is not an easy film to get through. In fact, as a viewer, watching the film was extremely unpleasant. Jonas Dassler gives no airs or graces in his portrayal of Honka — he is a repulsive, emotionally inept, vile, creep. He drools, snorts and squints as he lusts and leers after the women he attracts with cheap booze and bratwurst. The graphic scenes of sexual violence, abuse and murder are relentless. As Honka finishes up with one victim, he repeats his tried and tested lure again with the same fatal results. Due to this, the film feels tedious at times, with the continuous visual depravities gravely repeated without much dialogue, context or psychological analysis.
With the saturation of serial killer biopics, documentaries, podcasts, t-shirts (the list goes on) has it perhaps resulted in the desensitisation of the general public when it comes to murder? Unlike many serial killer films there was no true study into why Honka committed these terrible acts of abuse and violence. A glimpse of Honka’s personal life was seen in his strained relationship with others and in particular his volcanic rage towards his erectile dysfunction which resulted in extreme self-loathing and violence towards women. The film is brutally graphic — not just the bodily fluids, gore and incessant filth —- but viscerally graphic, the horrifying true to life sound used throughout the film echoes in your ears long after the film ends.
A film such as this is necessary to remind us of the bleak reality of the lives of the serial killer and their often forgotten victims. The women killed by Honka in real life were vulnerable women with troubled pasts and uncertain futures. There depictions on screen are grotesque caricatures of alcoholics, sex workers and vagrants. The exploitative humiliation of these women’s vulnerabilities is extremely uncomfortable to watch, in particular that of Gerda Voss played by Margarethe Tiesel.
Perhaps this film affected me in such a manner as we as viewers are seldom confronted with such a banal depiction of murder on screen. Lately we have consumed true-crime on a whole new level — listening to home town murders on our daily commutes and watching former Disney teen heart-throbs portray these monsters in Netflix specials. Honka is not romanticised or offered a sympathetic back story. But neither are his four female victims. The Golden Glove is a film about a serial killer but gives us no real answers. This could be why Akin’s representation of murder amongst those on the fringes of society is the one of the most inhuman of the true-crime genre to date.
by Casci Ritchie
Casci Ritchie is an independent dress historian specialising in fashion, film and consumer cultures. Her true great loves – film and fashion – began when she watched her first film noir, The Big Sleep, as a teenager and fell in love Bacall and Bogie hook line and sinker. Some of her favourite films include Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Beetlejuice, Double Indemnity and Cry Baby. You can find her over on Twitter at @CasciTRitchie & her blog www.casciritchie.com.