Robert Hatch

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 295

Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? is a clinical exercise designed to test how long a man can be expected to endure an existence that is, without relief, stale, flat and unprofitable. Herr R. is boring; worse than that, he suffers the capacity to be bored….

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On occasion, Herr R. thrusts feebly against the bladder of narcotic misery within which he is suspended…. But there is no heat to sustain these sparks of animation; they expire in sighs and silences. And so one day, when a neighbor is running on about her discovery of the techniques and apparel of skiing, the almost repellently soft and undemanding Herr R. picks up a lethally heavy candlestick. The feeling one gets from this denouement can scarcely be called catharsis, because what leads up to it is too inert to be called tragedy; but most viewers, I think, will find it a relief. Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? is an exhausting movie….

The overall effect is appalling—and is so intended; Herr R. is a completely successful work. It means to show what is really contained in the observation that most people lead lives of quiet desperation. I cannot honestly say that I pitied Herr R.; there is nothing within him solid enough to pity. But I believe in him as one of the "humours"; I have gone through days as savorless as his whole existence is shown to be. One leaves the Fassbinder-[Michael] Fengler demonstration in a mood to rejoice at being alive. And in retrospect I am impressed by the film—it is a tour de force of enervated horror.

Robert Hatch, "Films: 'Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?'" in The Nation (copyright 1977 The Nation magazine, The Nation Associates, Inc.), Vol. 225, No. 19, December 3, 1977, p. 602.

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