A gender-queer punk-rock singer from East Berlin tours the U.S. with her band as she tells her life story and follows the former lover/band-mate who stole her songs.A gender-queer punk-rock singer from East Berlin tours the U.S. with her band as she tells her life story and follows the former lover/band-mate who stole her songs.A gender-queer punk-rock singer from East Berlin tours the U.S. with her band as she tells her life story and follows the former lover/band-mate who stole her songs.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch began as an Off-Broadway musical in 1997, where it achieved cult status and critical acclaim. It is the story of Hansel (Ben Mayer-Goodman/John Cameron Mitchell), a homosexual young man who grew up in communist East Berlin, and dreamed of leaving his war-ridden homeland to find his soul mate. He thinks that he finds his soul mate in the person of U.S. Sergeant Luther Robinson (Maurice Dean Wint), a man who lusts for Hansel, but does not accept him for who he is. He proposes marriage to Hansel, with the promise that he will take him from East Berlin to America. However, Hansel's freedom comes with a price; he must undergo a sex change operation. Hansel's mother (Roberta Watson) gives Hansel her passport, and her name: Hedwig.
However, things do not go as planned. Hedwig's operation got botched, rendering her with an `angry inch,' and Luther instantly abandons her in a loathsome trailer in Kansas, where she keeps herself afloat with her dreams of becoming a glam rock star. To finance herself, she turns tricks at a nearby military base and becomes a babysitter for the children of commander of the local army fort. As a result, she falls in love with the commander's son, Tommy (Michael Pitt). Hedwig allows Tommy to collaborate on the brilliant songs that she has written and endows him with the rock name of `Gnosis,' the Greek word for `knowledge.' However, when Tommy learns of her sex, he too abandons her, steals Hedwig's songs, and becomes a rock and roll icon.
The film opens with Hedwig and her band, the aptly titled `Angry Inch,' performing in the straight-laced chain restaurant Bilgewater's, to horrified customers. Hedwig and the Angry Inch, along with their manager, Phyllis (Andrea Martin), have been following Tommy's world tour. In fact, Bilgewater's is adjacent to the humungous stadium where Tommy is performing. During her `world tour,' Hedwig recounts her heartbreaking story through a series of flashbacks, implemented through fades of white and different cinematography (absences of color, quality of film, etc).
The driving force behind every aspect in this film is John Cameron Mitchell, who starred, directed, and wrote the screenplay for Hedwig and the Angry Inch. This happening was extremely important, because Mitchell derived the entire concept of the Hedwig and brilliantly adapted it for the Off-Broadway stage. The stage version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch involved Hedwig recounting her past experiences through a narrative, so for the film version, Mitchell simply implemented the flashbacks in live action sequences. Even though his performance as Hedwig is deliciously tawdry sexual, through his brilliant acting talent, one is able to have a peek at Hedwig's loves and inner desperation for acceptance. Mitchell derived the basic concept of Hedwig and the Angry Inch from his own experiences growing up as the homosexual son of an army general. His father served in Berlin, and he had firsthand knowledge of the war situation.
Unlike most other rock musicals, the brilliant songs that Hedwig periodically performed were done so during Hedwig's stage performances, not at random points in the film. This aspect added to the believability of the film, discouraging the absurdity of its predecessors. Stephen Trask, who also appeared in the film, brilliantly wrote the Hedwig's songs. The songs did not have a tinge of campy like Broadway-style songs; they reflected the glam rock principles like the songs of David Bowie and Lou Reed from which they were based. Trask's past is in rock and roll, hence the obvious edge of the songs in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Mitchell's beautiful voice adds a triumphant punch to all of the songs (he starred in numerous musicals prior to Hedwig.) and lets the emotions of the beautiful lyrics and his brilliant performance shine through.
Even though Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a very low-budgeted independent film, Mitchell turned to his inventive imagination in order to create a richly beautiful and artistic piece. For example, he used imaginative camera angles to produce special effects. During `Angry Inch' performance scene, he executed a low angle medium shot underneath him to make it appear as though he was flying over a room of revolting people. Then, he executed a high angle long shot to depict the people from his perspective. Also, he used cinematography to change the mood of the film from the beginning to the end. For example, in the beginning of the film, Hedwig wore lush, elaborate wigs and brightly colored costumes and lighting was in warm, pinkish hues to depict Hedwig's more positive outlook. In contrast, toward the end of the film, Hedwig wore stark wigs and costumes and the film was filmed in higher contrast to depict Hedwig's tragic breakdown.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch recounts Hedwig's journey to find her soul mate: her journey of becoming `whole.' Mitchell derived this concept from `Plato's Symposium,' in which there were three sexes of people (man-woman, woman-woman, and man-man), with four arms and four legs, that were split in half by Zeus and wandered the earth, searching for their other half. Hedwig views herself as being a half of a whole, and thus does not accept herself for who she really is. Her first two attempts at love proved to be futile, and her current relationship with band mate, Yitzhak (Miriam Shor), is shallow and empty. In the face of adversity, Hedwig finds herself tragically alone. In order to find her destiny, she must look to herself for the answer.
- Dec 1, 2002