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With his mother (Jeanette Mühlmann) god-knows-where, young Jack (Romeo
Sitar) grows up with his alcoholic grandpa (Jürgen Goslar), who teaches
him to lie and cheat and turn everything into money, and teaches him to
treat women like shit, including his mother, who once returns and tries to
get him back.
Jack's only friend during that time is the young
prostitute Marion (Ingrid Ettlmayer), who is something like his mother,
his best friend and his girlfriend all rolled into one.
In later life,
Jack (now played by Bobby Prem) has problems to stay out of prison,
repeatedly he gets into fights and into minor break-ins, and he's soon so
messed up that he even rapes Marion, the only person who has ever been
good to him. She forgives him even that ...
During all this, Jack
desperately tries to find his mother, chasing after her through whorehouse
after whorehouse ... however, eventually it is her who catches up with him
- in prison, where he has landed for the umpteenth time. She promises him
a home once he's out, since she's no longer a prostitute but works at her
boyfriend's gas station, but once he asks her to make good her promise,
she pushes him away ... but at the gas station, he meets Chris (Katharina
Wressnig), an underage girl from a good family - and before long, he has
turned her into a whore (literally) and has become her pimp. But another
stint in jail breaks up their romance, too, while she is
re-released to her upper class family, and when she turns him downupon his
release, it's only a matter of time before he's going to explode ... and
ultimately he's incarcerated for life for murder (a crime which is never
shown and doesn't need to be).
In prison, he starts to write, and ultimately, he becomes a
renowned writer ...
Fegefeuer was based on Jack
Unterweger's autobiography of the same name, which he wrote - and which
made him a celebrity - while in prison. Actually, Unterweger was only
released two years after the film came out as a model prisoner, and thanks
to his literary work quickly became a part of the high society ... and
that was when things started to get nasty, because Jack Unterweger was a
wolf in sheepskin, he was not at all the resocialized criminal society saw
him as, but has after his release become a serial killer, killing at least
9 prostitutes in Europe and the USA between his release in 1990 and 1992,
when he was arrested in Florida. Ultimately, Unterweger hung himself in
Of course, this piece of trivia says nothing about
Willi Hengstler's film - first and foremost because all of it happened
afterwards. The film just tells the life of Jack until his first
life-sentence ... and does a pretty good job at that, as instead of
presenting the audience with a typically boring bio-pic, Hengstler has
turned his plot into a non-formulaic genre piece in stark black-and-white
that tells its events in a deliberately non-chronological order, often
telling subplots in reverse yet making perfect sense. A competent cast,
great camerawork and sets that deliberately do not spell out period piece
in large letters further contribute to the inherent quality of the movie.
So whether you see
the film as an unusual bio-pic or as an artsy crime drama, it remains unusual and totally