Posted by Mark Allen on 16 Nov 2006 | Tagged as: - Actors who have fallen off of the face of the Earth -
Thomas Haustein costarred in Christiane F., a stylish heroin-scare film released out of Germany in 1981. His rather large portrayal of the character Detlev was his first and last film performance.
Directed by Uli Edel (who later went on to direct Last Exit To Brooklyn), the film was based on the life of the very real Vera Christiane Felscherinow (aka: Christiane F.), who became a heroin addict and prostitute in Berlin by the age of 14. Her uncovered existence became a public sensation due to several human interest stories written about her in Stern magazine in the mid 1970’s. These expanded into a best-selling book, which was transcribed from her own tape-recordings about her life during that period.
The German title of the film is Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (Children of the Bahnhof Zoo), and refers to the much glamorized Bahnhof Zoo rail station in Berlin (in the 70’s and 80’s, the rear wing of the station was a controversial crossroads for prostitutes, junkies and teen runaways). Director Edel reportedly followed the book very closely during the creation of the film, which was basically non-fiction. Still, the story obviously maintains the aura of an anti-fairy tale; little children trading the warm hearth of home for the deep dark woods, only to loose their souls in the snow.
Considering everything that’s happened in culture since 1981, today Christiane F. could be shelved right at home amidst innumerable carbon copies. But at the time of it’s release, it was a stand-out ground-breaker in it’s own right. The picture’s subjects had been addressed in cinema before, just perhaps not in this particular style (lots and lots of style!) And it’s style is what wins out: if you like urgent films about gorgeous youths glamorously grasping straws in a whirlpool-ing modern world drowned in crime and doom - then this film will be like a gooey teddy bear to you. Christiane F.’s surface sheen overreaches the griminess (though the needle scenes are still hard to watch). It’s picturesque cinematography and zonked-out pace mix well with an appropriately impassioned score. The soundtrack features tracks by David Bowie (who makes a brief concert appearance) pulled from and reminiscent of his moody, krautrock-y work on Heroes and Low, which were assisted by a then ambient-mad Brian Eno. And it doesn’t hurt of course that the picture was filmed in Berlin, one of the most romantically oppidan places in the world, a location that’s pavement and neon seem perpetually cast in the golden blue bask of dusk.
The part of Christiane was played by German actress Natja Brunckhorst (cast out of 2,000 girls), who gave a much-celebrated portrayal of the story’s “Little Bo Peep drunk in the streets.” She was only fourteen when the film was made, and judging by the pubescent facial hair growth on his face (viewable in close detail on the DVD), German actor Thomas Haustein was probably around the same age when he costarred as Detlev, her troubled, topsy-turvy love interest.
The magnetic Haustein gives a somewhat anemic performance in the film’s first half (the film’s weird vocal dubbing, even in the German version, doesn’t really help get things off to a great start). In his first initial scene, when he is offering Christiane some paper napkins while she is throwing up against a tree, Haustein seems unable to decide what to do with any part of his body that isn’t in play. Most actors don’t know what to do with their hands in awkward sequences, Haustein doesn’t seem to know what to do with his eyeballs, which often nonsensically look up and down again and again in much of his initial screen-time. But this is an inadequacy he is able to gracefully sidestep due to his ephebic beauty. In a few electric moments, Haustein does nothing but lean against a wall and brood at someone, like a painting. Gorgeous youths often (but not always) have the upper hand in hoodwinking audiences with stiff performances, where lack of acting skill literally melts into the background of their physical appearance, which commands an intense visual lock. This phenomenon can often be contrasted in relief against older skilled actors, who might labor away on-screen while young beauties so casually and cruelly command the spotlight. Christiane F. has no significant adult actors, and even the few who appear have little story importance.
But, something shifts in Haustein’s performance halfway through the film, and it becomes quite good (could the film have been shot in sequence, allowing him to warm up along the way?) He often becomes angry at Christiane, his puppy dog eyes squinting as he screams at her about the disrespectibility of her giving men blow jobs for money while simultaneously preparing his works, his voice echoing inside a public bathroom stall scribbled with graffiti drawings of squirting penises and dirty German limericks. For much of the film’s last quarter, he’s prancing jittery-ly around the megalopolis in tight jeans, boots with heels, and a makeshift ascot made from a torn t-shirt - scowling as he searches for drugs, his face rapidly fluctuating into a cherub whenever a potential john comes within view. The scene where a convulsing, underwear-clad Haustein is sweatily attempting to cut their last desperate dose, focused and oblivious as Christiane spews a fountain red wine vomit all around him like a sprinkler, is a real keeper.
Considering his apparent age at the time, his performance is actually rather remarkable, and brave. The portrayal is homoerotic by frame one, which only solidifies throughout the plot as he confesses to Christiane one morning in bed that he hustles for male clients. This reaches a climax when his relationship with Christiane (where his true heart lies) is torn by a monster-faced, wealthy male john who exploits his addiction and lures him into a permanent live-in house boy situation - portrayed intransigently at film’s end.
Thomas Haustein’s filmography begins and ends with Christiane F., according to all reliable sources. In interviews with cast members and those involved with the film (as recently as 2001), when asked about Haustein - they always reply that they have no idea what ever happened to him.
This is part one of my â€śActors Who Have Fallen Off The Face Of The Earthâ€? series, where I write about un-discussed actors who have had relatively hidden careers in cinema (ranging from very brief to just one film) and have then literally vanished, for whatever reason - untraceable by imdb.com, Google, etc.