Review by Sean Boelman
Gábor Fabricius’s directorial debut Erasing Frank may be set in Europe during the Cold War, but its message rings true more than one would expect. A harrowing and effective, if largely one-note film, the way in which Fabricius discusses these important issues makes the movie one that won’t soon be forgotten.
The film tells the story of a young kid who, after his music is banned for being too politically-charged, is committed to a psychiatric ward. The movie hits a lot of familiar beats when it comes to stories about oppression, but what allows it to be notable is the fact that it is so upfront with everything it has to say.
Admittedly, despite the film clocking in at only an hour and forty minutes, it does run a bit on the long side. The eponymous rebel’s story is definitely very compelling, but the way in which it is presented is a bit repetitive and hard to get through. There is a lot of brutal torture and mistreatment, and it becomes exhausting after a while.
That said, no matter how difficult it may be to watch, what Fabricius has to say about censorship is absolutely essential to be heard. The voices of activists are still being brutally and viciously silenced around the world when they speak up, and it is something that needs to stop. Part of what is so horrifying about the movie is that these things could still believably occur today.
The character development in the film isn’t as detailed as one would hope. Although the protagonist is entirely compelling and immediately gets the audience’s sympathy, it’s clear that he is meant as a stand-in for the greater experience he is representing. It’s a story that has been told before, and not enough is done to help him stand out as a character.
That said, lead actor Benjamin Fuchs gives a performance that is extremely impressive. The range that was required of Fuchs in this role is absurd, as it is both physically and emotionally demanding. And despite this being his first turn as an actor, he manages to sell every bit of emotion on the screen.
Something else that stands out about the movie is the gorgeous look. Fabricius shoots the film in crisp black-and-white, and it works to both give the movie an old-timey feel. However, perhaps more impressive is the way in which he contrasts the elegance of the cinematography with the harshness of what is being depicted.
Erasing Frank may be a straightforward film, but it accomplishes the goal it sets out to do with ease. It’s a horrifying portrait of censorship and persecution, owing its success to the work of director Gábor Fabricius and actor Benjamin Fuchs.
Erasing Frank screened at the 2021 Venice Film Festival.