by Anthony King
“Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.”
That is the opening stanza of Valerie Solanas' S.C.U.M. Manifesto, her call to arms for a radical feminist takeover of the world. The acronym stands for “Society for Cutting Up Men,” and while Solanas flip-flopped several times on calling her call to arms a serious effort in mobilizing women throughout the world and a piece of satire, the manifesto itself is at once inspiring, infuriating, hysterical, terrifying, and heart-wrenching. Whatever you think of Solanas – whether she's a nut (she shot Andy Warhol in 1968, a year after self-publishing the manifesto, and many believe the attempted assassination directly led to his death 20 years later), or she's a true leader (she has inspired countless women to break out of abusive relationships and start life anew) – her words undoubtedly inspired other artists to create.
The simplified synopsis is this: four young women kill the men they sleep with after dating for five days. The complicated synopsis is just that: complicated. Like human beings – men, women, or otherwise – Rote Sonne (its original German title) attempts to explore the psyche of women fed up with the world, more specifically the world run by men. The women use sex work as their “front” in order to lure men to their prolonged demise; a demise that doesn't include any sort of torture. Once the five days are up, it's as simple as turning off a light switch and taking out the trash.
There is only one way for this movie to end, which I won't discuss here, but concludes the previous 86 minutes in a pleasing manner. Like Peggy, Sylvia, Isolde, and Christine, Red Sun is methodical and calculated. That isn't to say it's slow. If we're living in a “vibes only” society now, then Red Sun is a “vibes only” type of film. And like S.C.U.M. Manifesto, this could serve as a call to action, however that is to be defined. The movie stands out in the history of German cinema, coming at a time where the New German Cinema was transitioning from the original group of the Oberhausen Manifesto (Hans Loeper, Dieter Lemmel, Alexander Kluge, etc.) to a German New Wave that included Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Ulli Lommel, Wolfgang Petersen, and Wim Wenders. (Of note is the fact that only two women are regularly mentioned when discussing the German New Wave: Helma Sanders-Brahms and Margarethe von Trotta.)
Red Sun is a truly remarkable piece of filmmaking from a time and place most westerners are unfamiliar with. As much as the beauty stands out, like our four leading ladies, the ugliness of the world in which they live is equally apparent. Radiance has delivered this film in a beautiful presentation that deserves a slot on your shelf.
High-definition digital transfer overseen by director Rudolf Thome
Select scene commentary with Thome and Rainer Langhans, Obermaier’s boyfriend and Kommune 1 member who served as inspiration for the film and was on set for the shoot
Rote Sonne between Pop Sensibility and Social Critique - A newly produced visual essay by scholar Johannes von Moltke on Red Sun, which looks at the social and cultural influences on the film and provides context for the era in which it was made (2022, 21 mins)
From Oberhausen to the Fall of the Wall – A visual essay by academic and programmer Margaret Deriaz tracing the development of the New German Cinema from the Oberhausen Manifesto to the fall of the Berlin wall (2023, 50 mins)
Reversible sleeve featuring designs based on original posters
Limited edition 52-page booklet featuring new writing on the film by Samm Deighan, newly translated archival letters by Wim Wenders, critic Enno Patalas and the German Film Evaluation Office on the film’s official submission, newly translated archival interview with Rudolf Thome and an overview reviews
Limited edition of 2000 copies (each for the UK and US), presented in full-height Scanavo packaging with removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings
Blu-ray release date: June 20, 2023
86 minutes / 1970
PCM Mono (German)
Subtitles: English (SDH)