Rainer Werner Fassbinder Bruce Berman - Essay

Bruce Berman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Merchant of the Four Seasons] is a complex, depressingly moving tale that, when it is not steeped in the deliberateness of its development and representation of emotional and environmental vacuity, sheds much-needed light on the ill-effects of the petit-bourgeois mentality, in this case "mentality" as manifested by Hans Epp and his severely entrenched family. (p. 39)

In terms of method, The Merchant of the Four Seasons, which was made initially for German television, retains a washedout colour and a starkness of imagery (omnipresent crosses, gilt-edged picture-frames on barren walls, etc.), that despite their obvious thematic contributions render the visual terrain not very screen-worthy on one level, although revealing and certainly relevant to the depiction of Fassbinder's vision of a perverted lower-middle class. Stylistically, Fassbinder's work here can be likened to Godard's favourable middle period…. The scene staged at the film's end where, almost predictably, Hans' funeral takes place on a brilliant spring morning with birds singing and sun glowing, struck me as particularly Godardian in its irony. We are reminded that Hans (as we are all to varying degrees), the victim of (political) circumstance and perhaps life itself, can only cease to be a failure when he ceases to be. (pp. 39-40)

Bruce Berman, "Reviews: 'The Merchant of the Four Seasons'," in Take One (copyright © 1972 by Unicorn Publishing Corp.), Vol. 4, No. 4, November-December, 1972, pp. 39-40.