Close Up

4 May - 8 June 2010: Close-Up on Rainer Werner Fassbinder


Rainer Werner Fassbinder created an extraordinarily influential body of work that revolutionized cinema. Dying in 1982 aged 37 of a drug overdose, in his short but prolific life the "Enfant Terrible" of German cinema wrote, directed and starred in over 40 films. This season brings together six of the finest works by the most acclaimed and controversial post-war German filmmaker.

R. W. Fassbinder
1969 | 88 min | B&W | Digital

"Katzelmacher was shot over a mere nine days in August 1969, and was subsequently described by Fassbinder as the first of his "bourgeois" films – apparently because its own minimal story about lower-middle-class characters when they aren't working seems conceived in relation to life and not other movies. It premiered at the Mannheim Film Festival in October, where it received no less than seven prizes, and one can conclude, paradoxically, that it remains Fassbinder's most avant-garde film as well as one of his most commercial." – Jonathan Rosenbaum

The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant
R. W. Fassbinder
1972 | 124 min | Colour | Digital

Petra von Kant is a successful fashion designer. Arrogant, bitter and twisted after her divorce, she lives with her assistant Marlene, who silently suffers Petra's domination. When Karin enters her life she instantly falls in love with her and invites her to move in, promising to make her a famous model. But when Karin leaves her, Petra becomes irrationally jealous and hysterical. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant explores the tangled connections between desire, power, and self-identity, through astonishing performances and ravishing visual design. This is the third of a diverse and pivotal trio of masterpieces that saw the culmination of Fassbinder's abstract early style.

Fear Eats the Soul
R. W. Fassbinder
1974 | 93 min | Colour | Digital

Fassbinder, already the director of almost twenty films by the age of twenty-nine, paid homage to his cinematic hero, Douglas Sirk, with this updated version of Sirk's All that Heaven Allows. Lonely widow Emmi Kurowski meets Arab worker Ali in a bar during a rainstorm. They fall in love – to their own surprise – and to the shock of family, colleagues, and drinking buddies. In Fear Eats the Soul, Fassbinder expertly uses the emotional power of the melodrama to underscore the racial tensions threatening German culture.

Germany in Autumn
R. W. Fassbinder
1978 | 123 min | Colour | Digital

This fascinating film-collage takes as its subject the political unrest wrought in the autumn of 1977 by the terrorist activities of the Red Army Faction. Through documentary, dramatised vignettes and archival footage, Fassbinder and his collaborators examine the events and explore the motivations behind this crisis point in German history.

The Marriage of Maria Braun
R. W. Fassbinder
1979 | 120 min | Colour | Digital

Maria marries Hermann Braun in the last days of World War II, who after returning to battle, goes missing, presumed dead. Alone, Maria uses her beauty and ambition to prosper in post-war Germany. Fassbinder's biggest international box-office success and the first part of his post-war BRD trilogy, The Marriage of Maria Braun is a heartbreaking study of a woman picking herself up from the ruins of her own life, as well as a pointed metaphorical attack on a society determined to forget its past.

R. W. Fassbinder
1981 | 113 min | Colour | Digital

Conceived as a homage to Josef Von Sternberg's Blue Angel, Lola is a biting satire of capitalist greed starring Barbara Sukowa as the eponymous cabaret singer and call girl. Set in a German provincial town during the "economic miracle" of the '50s, the seductive Lola is the star attraction of the nightclub in which she works. But, ever ambitious, she spots an opportunity to improve her social position in the form of straight-laced new buildings commissioner von Bohm. Presenting her most demure persona, she manipulates von Bohm into a chaste courtship, but finds that outrunning her past is more difficult than she imagined.