Rainer Werner Fassbinder Jan Dawson - Essay

Jan Dawson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Although the ingredients of Fassbinder's Sixties gangster films are still much in evidence,] The American Soldier comes closer than any of Fassbinder's previous films to articulate the method behind its own coherent madness and to spelling out the moral, or at any rate the moral philosophy, behind its characters' seemingly amoral actions…. Although on the surface a long way from the Romantic tradition, Fassbinder's American Soldier in fact harks back to that tradition by depicting an inescapable link between love and death. Its moments of greatest tenderness and compassion all involve corpses…. It's as if the characters can only express the tenderness they feel when 'the other' has lost his potential to betray, manipulate or demand…. Fassbinder, as early as 1970, has transcended the conventions of [the B-melodrama and gangster] genres, extrapolating their theatrical emotions into a theatricality of style. The separate monologues, and the presence, not so much of an invisible fourth wall as of an invisible coom-divider, belong to the conventions not of the screen but of the stage…. The characters in The American Soldier act out their frustrations in movie clichés, but their creator has already moved far beyond them, fusing an unmistakable personal style from the most disparate and unpromising sources.

Jan Dawson, "Feature Films: 'Der Amerikanische Soldat' ('The American Soldier')," in Monthly Film Bulletin (copyright © The British Film Institute, 1978), Vol. 45, No. 533, June, 1978, p. 111.