Rainer Werner Fassbinder Christian Braad Thomsen - Essay

Christian Braad Thomsen

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Fassbinder's debut-film, Love is Colder than Death, has often been compared with Jean-Luc Godard's first film, Breathless, because both films introduced an unusually explosive period of production, and because both reveal a very personal reaction to the influence of the American gangster-film. (p. 12)

[Fassbinder's] debut-film was redolent of [a] pictorial emptiness, a feeling that we are starting afresh from the absolute null-point, in an attempt to build something upon the smoking ruins at which Godard arrived and has bequeathed to his contemporaries. Fassbinder tells a gangster-story, but already in the first scene in his first film he demonstrates that his gangster-world is in reality a reflection of the bourgeois world, with which his gangsters only apparently break by their way of living, but from which they never ultimately can free themselves…. Fassbinder repeats this same, absolutely static image-conception in his second film, Katzelmacher, about a Greek immigrant worker whose arrival in a little German provincial town triggers the latent fascist tendencies of the inhabitants. The world of this little provincial town could be interchangeable with that of his gangster-film: it is nearly void of maturity and sentiment, and is wholly static. (pp. 12-13)

Fassbinder's subsequent films deepen and vary the central themes of his first two films: the boredom and emptiness which grope their way to violent expression. Throughout Fassbinder's films, frustrations are resolved by violent action….

Fassbinder's first films will be remembered especially for their pictorial emptiness, for those endless static-camera sequences which purify situations of their "dramatic" content. Taking as his point of departure this emptiness, which is of an aesthetic and contextual nature, Fassbinder gradually discovers a succession of human feelings and social contexts which are more constructive. He additionally discovers a filmic language which slowly allows itself to be built up on the ruins left by Hollywood. (p. 13)

Warning lies mid-way in Fassbinder's work, and it is a turning-point. It is Fassbinder's most obviously autobiographical film, since it deals with the making of a film and gives a nonidealized portrait of Fassbinder and of his permanent crew of actors and co-workers…. Warning deals with the price they have to pay for functioning as a group, and with the tensions which, time and again, threaten to scatter them…. (pp. 13-14)

The director's dream of delegating the film's creation to all is just an excuse for his self-pitying plain, that it is always he who has to do it all. In reality, none of the...

(The entire section is 1119 words.)