Rainer Werner Fassbinder was one of the most important representatives of the New German Movement as he was known to film at a frenetic pace. In a professional career that lasted less than fifteen years, Fassbinder completed 40 feature-length films, three short films, two television film series, four video productions, twenty-four stage plays, four radio plays and 36 acting roles in his own and others’ films. He also worked as an author, cameraman, composer, designer, editor, producer and theater manager. Fassbinder’s phenomenal creative energy, when working, coexisted with a wild, self-destructive libertinism that earned him a reputation as the ‘enfant terrible’ of the New German Cinema, as well as being its central figure. He had tortured personal relationships with various actors and technicians around him who formed a surrogate family. However, his films demonstrate his deep sensitivity to social outsiders and his hatred of institutionalized violence. He ruthlessly attacked both German bourgeoisie society and the larger limitations of humanity. Fassbinder probably felt he was an outsider to society, being open with his homosexuality at a time when that was not considered acceptable. After starting out in theatre and eventually moving into films many critics originally thought his stories were exploitative on a persons sexuality. But over time Fassbinder’s work is now looked at as some of the most important and poetic films of the early 70’s to the late 80’s. There are three distinct phases to Fassbinder’s film career. His first ten movies, most famously Beware of a Holy Whore (1971) and A Merchant of Four Seasons (1971) were an extension of his work in the theater, shot usually with a static camera and with deliberately unnaturalistic dialogue. He was strongly influenced by Brecht’s ‘alienation effect’ and the French New Wave cinema, particularly the works of Godard. The second phase brought him international attention, with films modeled, to ironic effect, on the melodramas Douglas Sirk made in Hollywood in the 1950s. In films such as The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) Fassbinder explored how deep-rooted prejudices about race, sex, sexual orientation, politics and class are inherent in society, while also tackling his trademark subject of the everyday fascism of family life and friendship. The final films, from around 1977 until his death became increasingly more idiosyncratic in terms of plot, form and subject matter in movies. He also articulated his themes in the bourgeois milieu with his BRD trilogy about women in post-fascist Germany: The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979), Lola (1981), and Veronica Voss (1982). By the time he made his last film, Querelle (1982), Fassbinder was consuming heavy doses of drugs and alcohol to sustain his unrelenting work schedule. Tragically he died on June 10, 1982 at the young age of 37 from heart failure resulting from a lethal interaction between sleeping pills and cocaine.
The first shot of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun you see an allied bombing raid during a small wedding ceremony still in progress, as the bride and groom are scrambling for safety. It is the year 1943 and the groom is a soldier named Hermann Braun who must return to the front that very next morning, leaving […]
Rainer Werner Fassbinder was one of the most important representatives of the New German Movement as he was known to film at a frenetic pace. In a professional career that lasted less than fifteen years, Fassbinder completed 40 feature-length films, three short films, two television film series, four video productions, twenty-four stage plays, four radio plays and […]