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Fassbinder's Germany

Fassbinder's Germany: History, Identity, Subject

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 396
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  • Book Info
    Fassbinder's Germany
    Book Description:

    Rainer Werner Fassbinder is one of the most prominent and important authors of post-war European cinema. Thomas Elsaesser is the first to write a thoroughly analytical study of his work. He stresses the importance of a closer understanding of Fassbinder's career through a re-reading of his films as textual entities. Approaching the work from different thematic and analytical perspectives, Elsaesser offers both an overview and a number of detailed readings of crucial films, while also providing a European context for Fassbinder's own coming to terms with fascism. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0350-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Introduction: A Work Upstaged by Life?
    (pp. 7-12)

    In the cinema of the post-war period, Rainer Werner Fassbinder is a unique filmmaker. Between 1969 and 1982 - barely more than a decade, which is all he had to make his mark - he transformed the very idea of the German cinema, because by writing himself into German film history, he had to rewrite its history. Yet in the years since, the work he directed has, though not exactly vanished, undergone a strange transformation. A few of the films have entered the canon. FEAR EATS THE SOUL, THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT and THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA...

  4. 1. Fassbinder Representing Germany
    (pp. 13-44)

    When Fassbinder died in 1982, the obituaries the world over saw in him the chief representative not only of the New German Cinema but of the new Germany. Watchwords were angry, mercilessly critical, honest, inconuptible, the spirit of ’68, the beacon of self-righteous anger and aesthetic integrity.² It was not always like this, and indeed the notion ofFassbinder representing Gennany has something at first sight rather improbable. In order to understand how such obituary assessments could have come about, and how many discontinuous judgements are hidden inside the fulsome tributes, one needs to step back and consider what it means...

  5. 2. From Vicious Circles to Double Binds Impossible Demands in the Field of Vision
    (pp. 45-72)

    Fassbinder’s ambition may have been to make ‘Hollywood films in Germany’ , I but this was to be only partly realized in the years between 1968 and 1975. His furious production schedules set a pace neither his fellow directors of the state-funded New Gennan Cinema nor the (by then) moribund commercial film industry could hope to follow. His energy and charisma put him in command of a working method - the mini-studio with the super-stars, the regular team with the familiar cast of character actors – which could have professionalised filmmaking in Germany, had it not been perceived as an outright...

  6. 3. Murder, Merger, Suicide The Politics of DESPAIR
    (pp. 73-96)

    In Fassbinder, the cinema appears as a magnificent, but also always magnificently failing, efficiently deficient, identity machine. As his characters try to place themselves or arrange others in configurations that promise a heightened experience of self, it is never by means of a self-centred, inward-looking, boundary-drawing insistence on identity, but across as contradictory a field of identifications as Fassbinder’s narratives can devise and his camera can capture, providing characters with insinuating others and antagonistic doubles, each with a bewildering array of mirroring possibilities.

    Explicitly and implicitly, identity is also the subject of DESPAIR, the film from 1977 that represented Fassbinder’s...

  7. 4. The BRD Trilogy, or: History, the Love Story? THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN, LOLA and VERONIKA VOSS
    (pp. 97-128)

    Few of the high-points in Fasshinder’s career seem as incontrovertible as THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN, shot between January and March 1978 and shown for the first time unofficially at Cannes that year¹ (where DESPAIR was in competition), before premiering at the Berlin Film Festival in February 1979. MARIA BRAUN became Fassbinder’s most successful film, both critically and commercially. At home it took four million Deutschmarks at the box office, and abroad, it took one million dollars in the United States and played for a whole year at a prestigious Paris cinema. It made Fassbinder an international celebrity, who -...

  8. 5. Fassbinder. Reflections of Fascism and the European Cinema
    (pp. 129-148)

    In the previous chapter I argued that the BRD trilogy is best seen as Fassbinder’s perversely optimistic invitation addressed at the Germans of the 19705 to take a look at the Germans of the 19505: their marriages, their dependencies and depressions, the origins of their wealth and ‘Wohlstand’. A far more difficult and fraught undertaking was to extend a similar invitation to that same Germany of the 1970s to try and deal differently with the 1940s, a time when those who would be parents in the 19505 were still singing ‘today we own Germany, and tomorrow the world’, or were...

  9. 6. ... wie einst? LILI MARLEEN
    (pp. 149-174)

    With these contradictory ideological intertexts in mind, the background to LILI MARLEEN, the history of its reception, and its place in Fassbinder’s work become themselves more oblique, but by the same token, also more interesting. The project originated in the base proprietary rights of Luggi Waldleitner, one of West Gennany’s oldest established and most industry-oriented producers, who owned the song and its title. Manfred Purzer, also a member of Papa’s Kino, though of Fassbinder’s generation, and active in commercial filmmaking as writer, director and producer, had acquired the film rights to singer Lale Andersen’s autobiography(Der Himmel hat viele Farben)...

  10. 7. Frankfurt, Gennans and Jews The City, Garbage and Death
    (pp. 175-196)

    What the ‘Hitler Wave’ of the early 19705 and its focus on the ‘home front’ barely brought into public discussion was one central fact of Nazi ideology: anti-Semitism.² Its presence in Germany preceded Nazism, but its significance changed utterly when Hitler came to power, for with the planned genocide of the ‘Final Solution’ it became the turning point of modern German history. Yet neither the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1964, nor the Auschwitz and Majdanek concentration camp trials of Frankfurt in 1963 and Hamburg in 1967 provoked a fundamental soul-searching.³ The history of European Jews and the unimaginable destruction...

  11. 8. Beyond ‘Schuld’ and ‘Schulden’ IN A YEAR OF THIRTEEN MOONS
    (pp. 197-216)

    The opportunity to take up central aspects ofDer MUll, die Stadt und der Todpresented itself to Fassbinder two years later, under what at first glance appear to be wholly different circumstances. In May 1978, on a trip to New York, Fassbinder split up with Armin Meier, his lover of four years’ standing. Annin Meier returned to Munich on his own, while Fassbindcr went directly to the Cannes Film Festival. On what was probably Fassbinder’s birthday (May 31 st: the body was found almost a week later), Meier committed suicide in their joint apartment, having taken an overdose of...

  12. 9. Franz Biberkopf’s/ex-changes BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ
    (pp. 217-236)

    Encouraged by Fassbinder’s more than usually candid essay ‘The Cities ofMan and His Soul’ which he published towards the end of the series’ first public broadcasting in Gennany,2 the general view of BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ is that this 14-part television production was the culmination of Fassbinder's ongoing cinematic autobiography, best read as something like the blueprint, the ground-plan of the house he so often wanted his films to become.³ A paradoxical situation, when one considers that Fassbinder was filming a major work of modem German literature, a ‘classic’ many times covered in commentaries and interpretations, which had already been made into...

  13. 10. Historicising the Subject A Body of Work
    (pp. 237-260)

    Writing about Fassbinder more than a decade after his death is both too late and too soon. Too late to have much to add to the already voluminous literature, too soon to presume to have a perspective on the phenomenon Fassbinder. As the 1992 celebrations around the tenth anniversary of his death amply proved, in Germany itself, Fassbinder’s films still split the critical establishment and baffle audiences.² During his lifetime, the director had passionate detractors, but also a number of loyal followers, who watched his progress from sub-Hollywood B-pictures to middle-class melodramas to international super-productions with a steadfast belief in...

  14. Appendix One: A Commented Filmography
    (pp. 261-298)
  15. Appendix Two: Fassbinder’s Germany 1945-1982: A Chronology
    (pp. 299-318)
  16. Appendix Three: A Fassbinder Bibliography
    (pp. 319-340)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 341-388)
  18. Index
    (pp. 389-396)