Dead by 37, openly bi-sexual, constantly controversial: Rainer Werner Fassbinder was arguably post-war Germany’s greatest filmmaker.
"Seeing a Fassbinder retrospective is better than drugs, liquor and sex put together. If he was alive today, I'd fall to my knees in front of him. Dead? Well, we have to pray to somebody, don't we?"
A fearless artist who knew no taboos, Fassbinder combined scathing social criticism with profound psychological insight. After failing to get into film school he turned instead to the theatre, rapidly winning renown as a radical, innovative writer-director. With ferocious energy, though minimal resources, he started to make films, building a loyal team of actors and technicians drawn from the theatre (his first 10 features were made in less than two years). An insatiable film addict from early childhood, Fassbinder drew inspiration from the French New Wave and, later, from the Hollywood melodramas of Douglas Sirk and others. But what emerged from his dazzling fusion of style and content was a powerful, personal vision of people imprisoned by social constraints and their own contradictory desires. Provocative, poignant, darkly witty: these are films that could change your life.
Part two of this survey shows post-war Germany’s most provocative filmmaker at the height of his powers. Fassbinder always dreamed of creating his own brand of ‘German Hollywood film’, and with The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978), he finally managed to combine huge popular appeal with a complex, uncompromising vision of reality. This was the first of three superbly crafted chronicles of the 1950s (the others were Lola and Veronika Voss) – antidotes to the prevailing historical amnesia. By exploring the past, Fassbinder aimed to shed light on Germany’s troubled present; in other works, he engaged directly with the political turmoil and terrorism of the 1970s. ‘The secret of our success is that we’re making honest films,’ he once said, but his fierce integrity made him a target of vicious abuse. Neither a polemicist nor an ideologue (he dubbed himself a ‘romantic anarchist’), Fassbinder remains an extraordinary artist whose passion for truth-telling is now more important than ever.
The Marriage of Maria Braun will screen with a Q&A with actor Hanna Schygulla and editor Juliane Lorenz (President of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation) on Wednesday 29 March 19:00.
Check out the BFI Flare: Fassbinder's influences strand.
See our Philosophical Screens and The Bitter Tears of Fassbinder’s Women: A Symposium events
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