Veronika Voss aka Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss

Veronika in hat

By a stretch the best of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s so-called BRD Trilogy, Veronika Voss stands out against The Marriage of Maria Braun and Lola because Fassbinder had the great good sense to co-opt Billy Wilder’s brilliant Sunset Boulevard to help with the telling of the story of an ageing German actress and the young man who befriends her in the 1950s, much as he borrowed Von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel with Lola. Rosel Zech plays Voss, a once-shining, now-diminished star who is lent an umbrella in a downpour by a young sports journalist (Hilmar Thate). He has no idea who she is, but, with a journalist’s nose for winkling out a story, works … Read more

Lola

Lola bathed in red and orange light

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s BRD Trilogy isn’t really meant to be a trilogy and is, in any case, in the wrong order. Take 1981’s Lola. Second of the “trilogy” to be released, it’s marked as BRD3 quite clearly in the opening titles. Veronika Voss, last of the three, was marked BRD2. Only the first one, The Marriage of Maria Braun, seems to be the right film in the right place. Here, BRD stands for Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany). As to the trilogy not really being a trio. It was never meant to be one, it’s just that Fassbinder died before he could make any more, in 1982. So who knows how many … Read more

The Marriage of Maria Braun

Maria full face portrait

The first of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “BRD Trilogy”, The Marriage of Maria Braun (aka Die Ehe der Maria Braun) is a canonical part of the New German Cinema era of the 1970s and in its key figure, Maria (Hanna Schygulla), gives us post-War Germany’s spectacular economic rebirth (die Wirtschaftswunder) distilled down into a single person. Fassbinder starts us off in the dog days of the Second World War. The first image on the screen is a portrait of Hitler, seconds later dislodged by the shock wave from a falling bomb to reveal a man and woman in the process of getting married while the world literally explodes around them. Maria and Hermann. Cut … Read more

World on a Wire

Entering the simulation

World on a Wire (Welt am Draht) is German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s only stab at sci-fi. An epic 3.5-hour behemoth, it was originally shown on TV in two parts, and starts as Fassbinder means it to go on, setting up questions about what we’re seeing in front of us. The opening shot is done on a lens so long it causes an atmospheric shimmer. The picture wobbles just a touch, as if we’re looking through a heat haze. When the people we’re seeing start speaking, their voices have the dead flat ambience of a dubbing studio. So much for atmosphere – we’re disconnected from these businessmen out on the street and entering … Read more

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

Petra on her shagpile carpet

Though he had 40+ films to his name when he died in 1982 aged 37, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s roots lay in the theatre and it often showed. They’re clearly visible in The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, a film playing out on one set where a handful of actors perform in a theatrical “back of the room” style. The action, what little of it there is, takes place in and around the bed of Petra von Kant (Margit Carstensen), a massively entitled fashion designer attended by an entirely silent aide, Marlene (Irm Hermann). As Marlene brings coffee, cake, champagne, opens doors to let people in and out, types letters and between times … Read more