Close Up

15 - 22 April 2023: The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant


The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972, 124 min

In the early 1970s, Rainer Werner Fassbinder discovered the American melodramas of Douglas Sirk and was inspired by them to begin working in a new, more intensely emotional register. One of the first and best-loved films of this period in his career is The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, which balances a realistic depiction of tormented romance with staging that remains true to the director’s roots in experimental theatre. This unforgettable, unforgiving dissection of the imbalanced relationship between a haughty fashion designer (Margit Carstensen) and a beautiful but icy ingenue (Hanna Schygulla) – based, in a sly gender reversal, on the writer-director’s own desperate obsession with a young actor – is a true Fassbinder affair, featuring exquisitely claustrophobic cinematography by Michael Ballhaus and full-throttle performances by an all-female cast.

Part of our Histoire(s) du cinéma series