Nina Hagen was born in East Berlin in 1955, migrated to the West in the mid-70's and became a New Wave Punk rock star in 1978, singing in a screechy growl that shaded into an operatic coloratura. Although she was an enormous European star in the 80's, the movie makes it clear why she never found a commercial foothold in the United States. The connections between opera and rock that seem natural to European audiences had no resonance in the United States.Written by
Ulf Kjell Gür
One for fans of Hagen and/or students of punk and post-punk music history.
With her flamboyant sense of style and attention-seeking, uninhibited behaviour Nina Hagen is a one-of-a-kind talent who's pretty hard to characterise and tends to divide audiences pretty sharply. Personally, I'm a fan of the courageous, outrageous women (Hagen, Ari Up, Lydia Lunch, Poly Styrene etc) who found liberation via the punk movement and went on to defy society's definitions and expectations of what women are and how they should behave. Beyond the shock tactics and the aggression, most of these women also had a deeper spiritual dimension, which they explored in their art.
Sempel attempts to show both sides of Hagen in this film; not only Hagen's public persona of the wild and loud provocateur, but also the devotional, poetic earth-mother. However, his film's ragged and unfocussed style doesn't really hit his mark and nor does it do his subject any favours. Sempel's film actually manages to be quite dull in parts despite the fact that Hagen is never less than fascinating to watch. She has a variety of facial tics, eccentric vocal mannerisms and unselfconscious exhibitionism that borders on hyperactivity. Unfortunately, Sempel does not make best use of this. Instead, a long line of famous faces is paraded on screen in appreciation of Hagen, but fail to add much of value.
Sempel, also seems rather taken by the appearance of Hagen's sixteen-year-old daughter, Cosma, and his camera lingers rather creepily on her in several scenes, in my opinion.
Overall, I enjoyed this despite its flaws but I suspect that this film is probably only for fans of Hagen and/or students of punk and post-punk music history.
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