Rainer Werner Fassbinder Tom Allen - Essay

Tom Allen

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Although Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?] was made for German television, it is not on a par even with the Visions series on American Public Broadcasting, which gives young playwrights and filmmakers a forum. Fassbinder's exercise is more the equivalent of a loft production or an unpublished novel in the trunk. As I see Fassbinder's career in a spotty perspective, the film predates even his first tentative sparring with the aesthetic options of cinema, his so-called Sirkian conversion….

[The film is] a case history of banality with each entry contributing to the construct of a seemingly complacent architectural draftsman. The everyday abrasions from his wife, son, boss, and neighbors are within the general norm. Kurt Raab is a stereotypic middle-class clerk who would be as much at home in Manhattan and Tokyo as in Berlin; and I don't believe that it would be fair to Fassbinder in this particular film to read into Raab's regimented social life a metaphor for fascist programming in contemporary German society. Actually, Kurt could be my cousin in East Elmhurst. Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? is a composite of such noncompelling familiarity.

Tom Allen, "A Fassbinder from the Trunk" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1977), in The Village Voice, Vol. XXII, No. 47, November 21, 1977, p. 43.