I review the Facets release of No Mercy, No Future, the latest in the label’s “The Helma Sanders-Brahms Collection,” for Turner Classics Movies.
“This film began with a letter: Make a film of my story!,” reads the opening of Helma Sanders-Brahms’ No Mercy, No Future, in the coldly impersonal type on the glowing cathode ray green of an early computer screen. “The woman who wrote it is regarded as schizophrenic. Today, she is almost cured according to the doctors.” The real-life Rita G., the daughter of a wealthy couple, fled her bourgeois household and drifted in and out of the streets and hospitals. The director doesn’t just dedicate the film to her, she acknowledges her as the film’s co-creator in the opening credit: “A film by Helma Sanders-Brahms and Rita G.” Originally titled Die Beruhrte in Germany (which roughly translates to “The Touched”), it open with her protagonist, renamed Veronika Christoph for the film and played with haunting desperation and need by Elisabeth Stepanek, struggling against restraints in a hospital bed. For the rest of the film, we see the world through her skewed perspective as she wanders the streets looking for the face of Christ in the poor, the crippled, the dispossessed immigrant guest workers, and giving herself to the men she meets like a sacrament. Veronika tells one doctor that she is God’s favorite daughter and she has found Christ in many incarnations. British film critic Jill Forbes notes the symbolism of the character’s: “Traditionally, Saint Veronica wiped away Christ’s tears… while Christopher bore Christ’s body across the water.” Veronika’s hallucinations reverberate with religious imagery and she even joins a religious commune, where she embraces the fervor but comes no closer to finding God in the blind devotion and hypocrisy of the followers. While she’s no Christ figure, blood – and specifically Veronika’s blood – is repeatedly shed in the film like a sacrifice.
Read the complete feature review here.