Rainer Werner Fassbinder

I wasn’t able to think of a bet­ter title for this art­icle: in all cases, it’ll be too short to describe per­son­al­ity and works of this artist. So, it’s Germany, dis­gust, pain, sex, tears, love, man, woman, phal­lus, gay, negro, nig­ger, Nazism, hatred, war, poetry, rebel­lion, CINEMA!, Petra von Kant and her poignant tears.

I could list more, but I feel that your atten­tion has already been grabbed. After all, filthy and homo­sexual love related stuff is highly debat­able in our soci­ety. R.W. Fassbinder came through all of this dur­ing his life­time so my aim is dif­fer­ent. The most import­ant are the things he left and everything that was brought by das kleine chaos around him.

This is a man who was raised by cinema, cinema was his fam­ily. Father? He left when Rainer was only five years old, and he didn’t try to build a decent relationship.

Five days a week, usu­ally three films a day — R.W. Fassbinder about his child­hood pas­sion for cinema.

This is how future genius of movies was raised but still, his path to suc­cess was com­plic­ated, often even humi­li­at­ing. Rainer was not able to fin­ish school, so he star­ted mak­ing his first short films when he was twenty. He man­aged to get fin­an­cial sup­port from his lover and in return, he gave him main roles in his movies. This story inspired his future mas­ter­pieces. Like all of us in that age, at that time a boy was focused to his future and put all his hopes to Berlin Film School but, unfor­tu­nately, the sys­tem clipped his wings.

Still, R.W. Fassbinder remained in his cre­at­ive pro­cess. While he was act­ing in his ama­teur movies, Rainer met Irma Herman who worked as a sec­ret­ary back then – she was his muse and a close friend in 24 films. Even his mother took a part in his films. After he began to work with per­form­ance art in theatre, a place where the film dir­ector encountered pro­fes­sional act­ing for the first time. He gained invalu­able exper­i­ence there also met Hanna Schygulla, his num­ber one act­ress who became world fam­ous after­wards. Thanks to her that R.W. Fassbinder turned to theatre.

In theatre, R. W. Fassbinder gathered a major part of his devoted troupe. Already then he used to pick such top­ics as racism, hatred or sex abuse. His first play “Katzelmacher” well depic­ted these prob­lems. Only 20 minutes long intense act­ing show rela­tion­ships between Bavaria vil­la­gers and a Greek worker who is hated by local men and abso­lutely admired by women.

Situation, feel­ings, inner human con­flicts, insan­ity are the strongest aspects of R. W. Fassbinder’s art. Almost each of his char­ac­ters imper­son­ates one or another part of his life or char­ac­ter. You will genu­inely con­sider poor Petra’s or chaotic Quarelle’s true feel­ings and their com­plic­ated prob­lems in such films as “Quarelle” or “Die Bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant” com­pletely for­get­ting that these situ­ations should be appalling or in some cases even unac­cept­able for het­ero­sexual per­son. This is the most fas­cin­at­ing part in the works of R. W. Fassbinder — his vir­tu­os­ity to make spec­tator pay atten­tion to essen­tial things in chaotic situations.

Cinema served as a fam­ily life I’ve never exper­i­enced at home — R.W. Fassbinder

Soon, for­eign film crit­ics acknow­ledged R. W. Fassbinder as a genius of cinema. After their applause, he finally star­ted being accep­ted by German crit­ics who weren’t fond of film director’s eccent­ri­city as well as his scan­dal­ous appear­ances on TV and radio.

A phe­nom­enal indi­vidual just had to depict him­self in at least one of the films. In the end, it turned out that unique R. W. Fassbinder’s char­ac­ter might be savoured in each of his films.

If you are not famil­iar with his movies yet, I would recom­mend start­ing from before men­tioned “Quarelle” and “Die Bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant” (Poignant tears of Petra von Kant).

Both films are clearly influ­enced by the­at­rical per­form­ance. It seems that acts are per­formed on stage. All set­tings are delib­er­ately cre­ated like the­at­rical dec­or­a­tions and sceno­graphy is also stagy.

Satansbraten is another must see film if you want to get to know R. W. Fassbinder’s per­son­al­ity better.

My impres­sions about R. W. Fassbinder are float­ing some­where in the realm of sub­con­scious­ness and senses. There are only two ways when you encounter this artist: you are com­pletely cap­tiv­ated or you start exec­rat­ing him but what’s for sure – you can’t be indif­fer­ent. His first films were only few minutes long, and only after he reached their num­ber of 930 he recog­nized that he’s mastered his craft.

It’s quite a mod­est name – craft…

R. W. Fassbinder died in 1982 after tak­ing an immod­er­ate amount of knock­out pills and cocaine. His last film was ded­ic­ated to his lover Salem who starred in Angst essen Seele auf and later hanged him­self in prison. That film was Quarelle.

We could assume that R. W. Fassbinder’s life story was a key to under­stand­ing his movies. Only aware­ness of bio­graph­ical details can help to chro­no­lo­gic­ally per­ceive all his twis­ted chaotic films as a full life­time story of a remark­able artist.

Aleksandr Pasevin
About author:
Aleksandr Pasevin
Aleksandr Pasevin is Art Pit’s strategist and designer, responsible for organization’s creative solutions. Aleksandr is also actively interested in new technologies, their connection with creativity and usage in cultural organizations. Aleksandr dislikes long discussions and considerations, and he mostly expresses his opinion quickly about whet... Read further >
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