Remembering a true great of cinema - Rainer Fassbinder

Niall McCann


Niall McCann

Remembering a true great of cinema - Rainer Fassbinder

Last night I tried manfully to watch Civil War, the new Captain America movie but after the initial explosions, fighty kicky things, a woman's derrière, another woman's derrière, the same one, another kicky-fighty thingy, a double derrière shot and another explosion I'd had all I could stomach and happily turned the monstrosity off.

So this week you will have to go without a half-arsed take on a quarter-arsed idea.

As we are all painfully aware, we now live in a world of superheroes, at every turn we are surrounded by them, leering down from billboards, bum-chinned spandex gods of consumerism, rampant free markets and socially destructive hyper individualism. There they are forever gazing down on us, but they can never save us.

The devastating, disturbing and depressing, but all too regular, events like the homophobic hate attack on the LGBT community in Orlando on Sunday morning being a grim and sullen reminder that we may make all the films we want about defending "our way of life" and our "freedoms" (when this word became plural is beyond me, I missed that meeting) there will always be some idiotic hate-filled bigot (loads and loads of them in fact) ready to remind us that perhaps it would help if the ability to buy automatic weapons and firearms were curtailed.

Who knows, mass murder might be linked in some way to the availability of such weapons.

The leaders of the free world care more about lobby's than people getting killed. It gets sore, perpetually hitting ones head off a brick wall but that's what an interest in politics increasingly seems to involve.

So leaving Captain Fantastic America aside for the time being or forever ideally, I would like to discuss one of the greatest and most mercurial filmmakers the world has ever seen. A man who, even though he was just 37 at the time of his death in 1982, had produced written and directed more than 40 features, plays and TV films, as well as the 14-part series Berlin Alexanderplatz.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a man who had no time for the bigots, for hate nor for the violence they inflict.

Fassbinder, who died 34 years ago this week, was undeniably one of the greats the cinema has ever seen and as much of his work and dare I say it, oeuvre, is not well known in these rolling green pastures of Louth I thought we could all pull our trousers up to our knees and have a little dance in celebration of that most contrarians of contrarians, Herr Fassbinder, a Director, screenwriter and actor amongst many other things. A true leading light of the New German Cinema.

His career is exhausting just to read about and as it takes me quite a long time to make even one film never mind forty, he has always been something of a marvel to me.

In Fassbinders work he was a constant champion of the outsider so it seems right that in our increasingly unsympathetic world in which difference is feared, it's only right that we use this column to celebrate an artist who embraced the excluded, the marginalised and the unwanted.

In less than 15 years of life, he produced over 40 challenging, formally experimental, contrary, culturally explosive, and exquisitely beautiful movies about love as slavery, pain as a constant companion in life and history as an oppressive, shameful weight around the necks of young Germans.

Underlying Fassbinder's work was a desire to provoke and disturb.

He had many difficult personal relationships with the actors and crew around him who formed a kind of surrogate family. However, his work makes clear his deep understanding of and sensitivity to social outsiders and his hatred of institutionalised, state violence.

He continually attacked both German bourgeois society and the larger limitations of the post-world wars world.

His death is often cited as the event which ended the New German Cinema movement. A movement which also brought us the early films of Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders amongst others.

You could do a hell of a lot worse than check out the following films by way of an introduction to many a cinephiles obsession.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

This film won two awards at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. It is considered to be one of Fassbinder's most powerful works and is held by many to be a masterpiece. The film revolves around an unlikely relationship which develops between an elderly woman and a Moroccan migrant worker in post-war Germany and the anger, violence and bigotry this relationship causes to erupt in the community around them.

Berlin Alexanderplatz

For many his crowning achievement, Berlin Alexanderplatz is a 14-part West German television series, adapted from the Alfred Doblin novel of the same name. Worth your time a thousand times over.

The Marriage of Maria Braun/ Lola/ Veronika Voss

Also know as the The BRD Trilogy. The three films listed above are connected in a thematic rather than in a narrative sense. All three deal with different characters (though some actors recur in different roles) and stories, but each film focuses on the story of a specific woman in West Germany after the Second World War.

"BRD" stands for Bundesrepublik Deutschland, the official name of West Germany and of the united contemporary Germany.