Close Up

23 - 24 November 2019: Berlin Alexanderplatz


Berlin Alexanderplatz
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1980, 902 min
German with English subtitles

"Restored in 2006, Berlin Alexanderplatz is the summa of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's art, and the culmination of his lifelong relationship to Alfred Döblin's monumental novel of Berlin in the 1920s-a book the filmmaker said was “embedded in my mind, my flesh, my body as a whole, and my soul.” Fassbinder pours knowing tenderness into the characterization of Franz Biberkopf (Günter Lamprecht), an unemployed lumpen worker who earns his living as a thief and pimp following a stint in jail for murdering his mistress. Franz is a jovial if explosive figure in the Alexanderplatz district of Berlin, a man with optimistic dreams, a determination to “go straight,” and an absurd faith in love. Berlin Alexanderplatz chronicles the destruction of this faith, amid the poverty, hypocrisy, and violence of Berlin in the years just before Nazism took full hold. Unable to find work, Franz takes up with the hustler Reinhold (Gottfried John), who becomes his “best friend” and then betrays him in a number of important ways. Franz is also involved with several women during the course of the drama, but when he meets the young prostitute Mieze (Barbara Sukowa), he declares her “his most beloved in all the world.” It is upon losing her that Franz succumbs to despair-and allows himself to be transformed into a “useful member of society.” The film's famous epilogue is Fassbinder's comment on that.

With a hundred leading and supporting actors, including members of Fassbinder's excellent stock company (along with Lamprecht, John, and Sukowa, Hanna Schygulla is featured as Franz's friend Eva and Volker Spengler as the gang leader Pums), Berlin Alexanderplatz is filled with the characters and stories of Döblin's Berlin. And at fifteen and a half hours, it comes closer than most film experiences to the engagement that a good novel offers. The beauty, richness, and cohesion of Fassbinder's style can here be fully appreciated as it links one chapter to the next." – BAMPFA

Please note: Berlin Alexanderplatz has a runtime of just over 15-hours and will be screened over two days with intervals, please see the full schedule below.

Saturday 23 November

11am - 1.30pm: Berlin Alexanderplatz 1 - 2

The Punishment Begins
How is One to Live if One Doesn’t Want to Die?

2.15pm - 5.15pm: Berlin Alexanderplatz 3 - 5

A Hammer Blow to the Head Can Injure the Soul
A Handful of People in the Depths of Silence
A Reaper with the Power of Our Lord

6pm - 8pm: Berlin Alexanderplatz 6 - 7

Love Has Its Price
Remember – An Oath can be Amputated

Sunday 24 November

11am - 2pm: Berlin Alexanderplatz 8 - 10

The Sun Warms the Skin, but Burns it Sometimes Too
About the Eternities Between the Many and the Few
Loneliness Tears Cracks of Madness Even in Walls

2.45pm - 4.45pm: Berlin Alexanderplatz 11 - 12

Knowledge is Power and the Early Bird Catches the Worm
The Serpent in the Soul of the Serpent

5pm - 8pm: Berlin Alexanderplatz 13 - 14

The Outside and the Inside and the Secret of Fear of the Secret
My Dream of the Dream of Franz Biberkopf by Alfred Döblin, An Epilogue

Part of our season on Rainer Werner Fassbinder