Rainer Werner Fassbinder tells us the story of the novel "Berlin Alexanderplatz":

"...former transport worker, Franz Biberkopf; is released from prison, where he has spent four years for manslaughtering his old girlfriend, Ida, with a cream-beater. During the dire economic situation in Berlin in the Twenties, Ida has walked the streets for him. As an ex-convict, he initially has the usual potency problems, which he rids himself of when he almost rapes the sister of his victim. Subsequently, he is capable of starting a relationship with Lina, a Polish girl, and does so in such a way that she believes it's love and induces Franz to swear an oath to remain decent from now on, so true... well, anyway. Their financial situation is terrible, and all attempts to create a stable basis fail, whether by selling tie-clasps, erotic literature, the Volkischer Beobachter newspaper-which gets him into trouble with his former friends, the Communists, with whom he had once had a common cause, because he liked them. All that's left are shoe-laces-people always need them-and he sells them together with one of Lina'a uncles, until the uncle misuses Franz's trust in him and both blackmails and threatens a widow, whom Franz had made happy in return for a little money. Franz, who has an unshakeable faith in the good side of people, does nothing but drink heavily for weeks before he manages to get back into living again and to seeing others.

Then he gets to know someone called Reinhold. Reinhold is a small-time gangster who exerts a strange fascination of him, a fascination so great that Franz makes a remarkable deal with him: he takes the women off his back, for Reinhold gets tired of the women so quickly. With him it's almost pathological: forst, he has to get a lady, come hell or high water, and then he ditches her again, quite suddenly and brutally, but he still doesn't find it easy and has his problems doing it. But Franz, whom Reinhold notices is somehow fascinated by him, and whom he also finds rather dumb as well, Franz takes the women off his back-first one and then another, but when it comes to the third Franz refuses. It's time Reinhold learnt to stay together with one for a bit longer, because it's good for you and it's unhealthy to do otherwise, and because he, Franz, wants to help Reinhold, and, in any case, it's right. And Franz understands that he, Reinhold, can't grasp this at once and feels insulted; that's the way things are. Shortly afterwards, something happens, by chance, in which Franz is involved: a job which he thinks is a straightforward fruit-delivery and which he suddenly discovers to be a theft. He keeps look-out and wants to run away but doesn't succeed. After the theft, Franz is sitting with Reinhold in an automobile, when suddenly Reinhold feels they're being followed. Now Reinhold's fears of being pursued combine with his anger towards Franz. And then something like a sleep-walking sequence takes place: Reinhold suddenlly throws Franz out of the automobile. Franz is run over by the car behind, and it really does look as if he is dead.

But Franz Biberkopf isn't dead: he only loses his right arm. His ex-girlfriend, Eva, and her pimp get him back on his feet again; and without his right arm he goes back into the city, where he gets to know a small-time gangster, for whom he does some wheeling and dealing, which puts him in a somewhat sound financial position.

This is where Eva brings a girl along for him. Franz calls her Mietze, and as it turns out, she starts walking the streets for Franz. Franz accepts this, and for a while the two of them are happy. They love each other. But Reinhold comes between them, meeting Mietze a number of times, until he finally murders her.

Franz is convicted of the murder and is put in a mental institution, where, after a long phase of a reverse process of catharsis, he becomes a useful member of society. He will probably become a National Socialist; that's how much the encounter with Reinhold has wrecked him..."

(Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1980)

The first thing was to show what the Germans-well, "the German" I put it like for I really do know the Germans best-you know, what stuff the Germans are made off: how an idea like fascism-you can discuss perhaps, which I'd still say-can lead them to something like National Socialism, which you can no longer discus.

For a quite a stretch, there's an introduction to one of these charactres, until a story gradually emerges between two men. But what happens then between them, and how they both deal with other people, and go to the dogs together, is a pretty exciting stora.

(Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1980)