Then he took Ber­lin


The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - MD

It would be an un­der­state­ment to de­scribe Ger­man writer-di­rec­tor Rainer Werner Fass­binder as pro­lific. By 1982, when he met his un­timely death from a drugs over­dose at the age of 36, he had made close on 30 fea­ture films and a monumental TV se­ries, and the quan­tity of his out­put was matched by its qual­ity. A true orig­i­nal tal­ent, Fass­binder pro­duced a body of work marked by so­cial re­al­ism and rooted in emo­tional hon­esty.

Many of Fass­binder’s best films are now avail­able on two boxsets. The first vol­ume fea­tures nine movies he di­rected be­tween 1969 and 1972. Among them are Katzel­macher, ex­plor­ing one of his re­cur­ring themes, the treat­ment of im­mi­grants in Ger­many; The Mer­chant of Four Sea­sons, fol­low­ing a man’s re­bel­lion against cap­i­tal­ism and his bour­geois back­ground; and The Bit­ter Tears of Pe­tra von Kant, ob­serv­ing the les­bian re­la­tion­ship be­tween a fash­ion de­signer and her new as­sis­tant.

Eight films from 1973-1982 are fea­tured in the sec­ond vol­ume, in­clud­ing Fear Eats the Soul, in which a Ber­ber im­mi­grant be­comes in­volved with an older wo­man; Fox and His Friends, in which Fass­binder plays an ex­ploited work­ing-class gay man; and The Mar­riage of Maria Braun, ex­am­in­ing post-war Ger­many through the ex­pe­ri­ences of a wo­man vividly played by Hanna Schygulla.

Avail­able sep­a­rately on a sev­endisc DVD with co­pi­ous ex­tras is Fass­binder’s en­thralling 1980 TV epic, Ber­lin Alexan­der­platz (pic­tured above with Hanna Schygulla). Based on Al­fred Doblin’s novel and run­ning more than 15 hours, presents an un­flinch­ingly crit­i­cal pic­ture of Ger­many dur­ing the Weimar era of the 1920s, as seen through the eyes of a morally com­pli­cated ex-con­vict, mem­o­rably played by Gunter Lam­precht.

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