Ich Hunger, the new film by Tacoma local, Isaac Olsen, is a doozy of a thing to explain. As has always been the case with Olsen's previous works - as seen in the 72-Hour Film Festival, as well as in his debut feature length riff on film noir, Quiet Shoes - there's a tremendous amount of emphasis placed on style. But, whereas Quiet Shoes, because it was a detective story, had to have some sort of a plot, Ich Hunger is a play on German expressionist horror. And what does that mean? Balls-to-the-wall nuttiness from beginning to end.
Here is the story in its entirety: In the woods of a rural German town, there lives a "creature boy" that eats human flesh. A man comes looking to stop the creature. That's it. In the meantime, though, there are delirious detours into musicals, animation, dream sequences, slapstick farce, sitcom spoofs and a funny, yet oddly beautiful encounter with a fairy.
Olsen approaches filmmaking like other relentless stylists like Sam Raimi, the Coen Brothers and Todd Haynes, though due to its sheer volume of wacky surrealism, Ich Hunger is most reminiscent of the work of Guy Maddin, the Canadian king of experimental mind-benders.
As the star of the film, the aforementioned "creature boy," Andreas Harder's performance is essential to the success of the film. His gaunt, possessed mannerisms bring to mind Klaus Kinski, Werner Herzog's famously deranged muse. With sunken-in eyes and a goofy smile, Harder manages to settle quite comfortable into a role that might otherwise come across as silly (well, sillier) in other hands. And, while this is all definitely an excuse for insane visual effects and experimenting with tone and sensory overload, there are still moments of pathos involving the creature boy. That the character has little more detail than the desire to eat human flesh makes this all the more impressive.
Above all else, Ich Hunger is a remarkably assured film. Whereas Quiet Shoes occasionally stumbled with story structure, Ich Hunger is unburdened of all those hang ups. It's all wild id. Every outlandish risk and desire is put on full display in what must be the purest release of Olsen's whims to date. If you've come looking for a coherent story, you've come to the wrong place. But, if you want to see a dazzlingly visual film from one of the most talented up-and-comers around, Ich Hunger will quench your thirst.
THE GRAND CINEMA, WEDNESDAY, FEB. 27, 8:30 AND 10:30 P.M., $10, 606 S. FAWCETT AVE., TACOMA, 253.593.4474