COVID-19/Coronavirus announcement

Glasgow Short Film Festival have taken the sad and difficult decision, which we fully support, to postpone this year’s festival. Unfortunately, that includes our event, Girl in the Picture: The Youth Films of Nobuhiko Ôbayashi + House and the Scalarama March Meet-up. You can read GSFF’s statement, which includes details on refunds, here: glasgowshort.org/visiting-the-festival/gsff20-postponement

We’ve subsequently taken the decision to postpone the debut of our Arrow Video Night screening series (including opener Why Don’t You Just Die! and the April event, scheduled for 10/04) and the connected CineWriters group meetings (ta-da, that’s a thing/will be a thing!).

NB Remakesploitation Fest 2020 (25-26/04) and KeanuCon 2020 (19-21/06) are still currently going ahead as planned. We will continue to monitor the recommendations of the Scottish Government, the NHS and our partner venue, CCA Glasgow. We hope to relaunch the Arrow Video Night on Saturday 30th May.

We’ll be in touch with ticket holders for Why Don’t You Just Die! directly, and generally appreciate your patience and forbearance with this whole thing, which is obviously still unfolding and that we’re trying to navigate with the greater good in mind.

We have to balance our own decisions as a small, independent operation (with currently no guaranteed funding support) against taking an abundance of caution. While events at CCA (theatre capacity 150, cinema capacity 74) fall below the threshold of 500 for proscribed gatherings, and our first instinct is the show must go on, we need to take responsibility and prioritise public health and safety and truthfully, it doesn’t feel right to be going ahead with events while this whole thing is expanding and still unfolding.

This missive from our friend and respected fellow programmer Herb Shellenberger has informed our decision: 

repcinemas.substack.com/p/canceleverything

On a related note, we rely on funding support, ticket sales and the revenue we make from subtitling for film events to keep going. With all of those things currently unsure, it’s going to be a tricky time for us. If you’d like to support us in another way, we have t-shirts, posters/prints, books and zines on sale in our online shop: matchboxcineclub.bigcartel.com/category/merch.

If you have any questions regarding upcoming Matchbox Cineclub events please feel free to email us at info@matchboxcineclub.com.

Fan Fan Fanatisch: Obsession in Der Fan

Guest writer Claire Biddles (Sad Girl Cinema) writes on female desire and fandom in German horror Der Fan ahead of our co-screening on July 21st. Beware spoilers!

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Désirée Nosbusch in Der Fan

“No letter today. I wrote to R over three weeks ago, and still no answer. Maybe he never got my letter. Maybe some jealous secretary got her hands on it and decided not to give it to him. Because she could tell I love him more than she does. Really love him.”

Although written and directed by a man – prolific German filmmaker Eckhart Schmidt – 1982 cult horror Der Fan is one of the most convincing depictions of female fandom, obsession and desire in cinema. Its descent into cartoon excess represents the heightened fantasy end point of pop star adulation, but it is grounded in uncomfortable truths.

Der Fan follows German teenager Simone, who is disengaged and almost catatonic as she sleepwalks through the drudgery of her home and school life. She barely speaks, but through her narration we discover the reason for her vegetative state: her every waking moment is devoted to intense thoughts of R, a new-wave pop star who she adores above anything else. Her bedroom walls are covered in monochrome images of him, and she listens to his songs via an omnipresent cassette Walkman that separates her from the real world. She no longer pays attention to schoolwork: “What’s the use? I can’t think of anything except R and how much I need him.”

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Désirée Nosbusch in Der Fan

The signifiers of fandom are familiar, but the execution is unusual. Rather than a depiction of the (often communal) hysterical excitement of fangirls, Der Fan traces its solitary, destructive flipside. It’s telling that the film’s alternative English title is Trance: Simone’s desire is so all-encompassing that other people fail to register — her teachers, parents, more appropriate romantic suitors. Her unreciprocated obsession is so all-encompassing that it becomes destructive; cancelling out its mundane surroundings.

Simone’s desire has left her with a one-track mind in the centre of a void, wandering the streets in a fugue state. The film’s atmosphere is a dull ache: rain and suburban streets and municipal buildings. R’s music is the kind typically made by inhabitants of these post-industrial landscapes – the soundtrack by Düsseldorf group Rheingold recalls the driving empty urbanity of Joy Division or Bauhaus.

Simone has written R a letter to which he hasn’t responded. Every day she drags her feet to the post office in anticipation of his reply; a voiceover counting the days like a prison sentence. When she tires of waiting, she tracks him down outside a TV studio, and they finally meet. Simone is speechless — she collapses and he rescues her, taking her inside the studio to watch his performance being filmed.

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Désirée Nosbusch and Bodo Steiger in Der Fan

The link between the devotion of pop fandom and the manipulative power of political dictatorship is often made in films about charismatic pop stars – most recently in Brady Corbet’s twin films Childhood of a Leader and Vox Lux. The allusion is sometimes clunky: in Der Fan, images of mass-saluting crowds are interspersed with images of R in Simone’s bedroom; in the television performance that Simone watches, R wears a militaristic uniform surrounded by saluting mannequins. The sinister creep of R’s power is more subtly expressed in the similarity between R and Simone when they finally meet, both wearing almost identical outfits of white shirts and dark leather trousers. This could be read as a symbol of R’s control over Simone (and others – his secretary is also seen in a similar outfit) but also of Simone’s desire to possess him so much that she literally starts to become him: an under-reported but fundamental manifestation of fandom.

This desire is made explicit (and then some) in the film’s audacious final act. After their meeting at the television studio, R takes Simone to his friend’s empty apartment where they have sex. After this ultimate act of wish-fulfilment, R disappoints Simone with his aloofness – his desire for a simple one night stand not matching up to her overwhelming need for him. The film’s final twist sees her react with extreme and perverted violence.

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While committing this strange violence, Simone is single-minded and determined, her demeanour as trance-like as when she was yearning for R at the start of the film. She’s detached and withdrawn, an empty vessel. If obsession destroys everything around the object of desire, it’s no surprise that it will eventually start to erode the self, too. So much of Simone’s sense of self is constructed around her desire for R, and her desire for R is constructed around a fiction of her own creation. Like so many relationships between fan and fan-object, Simone projects her own base needs onto the empty vessel of a pop star. He can be anything she needs him to be. Even his single-letter name is ripe for projection – a hyper-concentrated version of the iconic mononymous pop star. Nobody knows what the ‘R’ stands for, so it could stand for anything. His post-punk voice is monotonous and anonymous, but Simone fills it with subjective meaning: “He always sings with that same voice, but to me it sounds different every time.” This projection is disrupted once Simone meets the ‘real’ R. When the fan-object disintegrates into nothing, the fan’s whole sense of self is in flux.

Although it presents an extreme manifestation of fandom and obsession, Der Fan’s depiction of desire as a nihilistic force is rooted in truth. It can also be argued as a subtly feminist film: its moral could be that female desire is deadly and destructive, something for men to be afraid of — but also that desire for men is destructive for women too. So many narratives around fandom are rooted in pop stars’ potential to ‘save’ their fans, but Der Fan suggests they can just as easily destroy them — or help them to destroy themselves.

Claire Biddles


Der Fan screens on Sunday 21/07 at Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, followed by a panel discussion on obsession, fandom and thirst, moderated by Claire Biddles.

Tickets are on sale via Matchbox Cineclub’s online shop here, and are priced on a sliding scale, according to your means.

Keep up-to-date with the Facebook event page here.