Program of films by Reiner Werner Fassbinder

Intense life, intense art

Rainer Werner Fassbinder did not lose time; he was only losing his nerves,
feelings and, perhaps, sanity. Instead of the Divina Commedia he created a
Human Farse

Love Is Colder Than Death – the title of one of the movies of German
director Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1946, somewhere dated 1945. – 1982.) might be
a general description of his entire work composed of impressive – especially
taking into consideration his premature death – forty titles.

Fassbinder is, nevertheless, not some sentimental gratifier of the wishes of the
audience. We are talking about the author who, among other things, speaks the
language of Brecht, and of the man that who, from the position of an outsider
and a man on the edge, always had a clear view on the sadness of the human
condition. It was said of his movie Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) about
an elderly German cleaning woman who falls in love with a much younger immigrant
from Morocco, that depicture was of Fassbinder’s own relationship with a man who
came from the mountains from the North Africa and, not integrated into the
German society, started to drink and become violent. At the same time, this
movie - one of the most beautiful, is a dedication to Douglas Sirk and his
melodrama All That Heaven Allows (1955). But what a dedication!
Bitter, cold and terrifying – and gentle, because there is love, but far away
from illusions and light.

Fassbinder’s characters are often on the bottom and even lower; their lives are
claustrophobic, unhappy, monotonous, creating, as critics remarked, some tragic
farce. Fassbinder in the early phase is stylistically “unpolished,” rough, even
irritating. It is hard to watch the drowning of one human soul in the Why
does Herr R. Run Amok?
(1970), for example, where a petty bourgeois
existence goes towards an explosion. The same happens in the The Merchant of
Four Seasons
(1972), where a fruit seller is struggling with his unhappy
marriage. Nothing better happens to a teenage-hero Effie Brest in the same movie
from 1974, captured into a marriage with a lot older man. And everything leads
us to The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972), where one overspent
lady theatrically lives through her problems with her female lover.

Fassbinder lived intensely, with alcohol and drugs, and worked with even greater
intensity. With his roots in a wealthy middle-class family from Munich he
discovered a rebellion very soon, while his homosexuality was an everlasting
inspiration for marginality. He described his own possible position of an honest
man true to ideals of love who is eventually betrayed, tricked and laughed at in
the movie Fist-Right of Freedom (1975), and where he played the main
role. Generally speaking, Fassbinder is maybe at his best when he talks about a
small man of the post-war Germany, a man that more or less unsuccessfully
radiates humanity and sensitivity – and in the atmosphere of the poisoned
bourgeois mentality, prejudices and narrow-mindedness. And even though he always
wanted to create a perfect melodrama following the model of Sirk, his best
melodramas are these dirty, malodorous movies that testify profoundly about
suffering – even though they are not a glittering nor scenografically polished.

On the other hand, we can not deny representivity and accomplishments of his
“late” trilogy of post-war Germany with titles as The Marriage of Maria Braun
(1979.), Lola (1981.) and Veronika Voss (1982). It is Fassbinder
in gloves; the first two movies are about the enterprising spirit of two strong
heroines building for themselves a place in the new Germany. Veronika Voss,
on the other hand, is about a decline of an ex-star that, ten years after the
war, is left only with memories and morphinism.

Besides its great popularity, the melodrama Lili Marleen (1981) does not
belong to the director’s better accomplishments (it is important to mention that
Fassbinder was always a writer or co-writer of his films). His last movie, the
stylised erotic tale Querelle, is more a presentation of an extraordinary
gay-world of Jean Genet, than about Fassbinder’s preoccupations. That is to say,
Genet and Fassbinder are both wild, but in very different ways.

However, it is only a part of Fassbinder’s work that is partly mentioned by it:
there is theatre and television – a huge TV-project Berlin Alexanderplatz,
by Döblin’s romance.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder truly did not lose time; he only lost his nerves,
feeling, and maybe sanity. Instead of Divina Comedia he created a Farce Divine,
and therefore, saying farewell to him even in this moment, we can use the quote
from Star Wars - May The Force be with you – and rephrase it into:
May The Farce be with you. (Drazen Ilincic)