Rainer Werner Fassbinder


Director, Screenwriter
Rainer Werner Fassbinder

About

Also Known As
Franz Fassbinder, Franz Walsch, R W Fassbinder
Birth Place
Germany
Born
May 31, 1945
Died
June 10, 1982
Cause of Death
Heart Failure

Biography

By far the best-known director of the New German Cinema, Fassbinder has also been called the most important filmmaker of the post-WWII generation. Exceptionally versatile and prolific, he directed over 40 films between 1969 and 1982; in addition, he wrote most of his scripts, produced and edited many of his films and wrote plays and songs, as well as acting on stage, in his own films and...

Family & Companions

Ingrid Caven
Wife
Actor. Married in 1970, then divorced.
Juliane Lorenz
Companion
Editor. Worked on Fassbinder's films; together from 1977 until his death.

Bibliography

"Rainer Werner Fassbinder"
edited by Laurence Kardish, with Julianne Lorenz, Museum of Modern Art (1997)

Biography

By far the best-known director of the New German Cinema, Fassbinder has also been called the most important filmmaker of the post-WWII generation. Exceptionally versatile and prolific, he directed over 40 films between 1969 and 1982; in addition, he wrote most of his scripts, produced and edited many of his films and wrote plays and songs, as well as acting on stage, in his own films and in the films of others. Although he worked in a variety of genres--the gangster film, comedy, science fiction, literary adaptations--most of his stories employed elements of Hollywood melodrama from the 1950s overlayed with social criticism and avant-garde techniques. Fassbinder's expressed desire was to make films that were both popular and critical successes, but assessment of the results has been decidedly mixed: his critics contend that he became so infatuated with the Hollywood forms he tried to appropriate that the political impact of his films is indistinguishable from conventional melodrama, while his admirers argue that he was a postmodernist filmmaker whose films satisfy audience expectations while simultaneously subverting them.

Fassbinder often described his early years as lonely and lacking in love and affection. His father, a physician, and his mother, a translator, were divorced in 1951, and Fassbinder had little contact with his father after that. From around the age of seven, Fassbinder would be sent by his mother to the cinema so that she could work on her translation projects. He would later claim that during this period of his life he went to the movies almost every day, sometimes two or three times a day. He attended private and public schools at Augsburg and Munich but left before graduating in 1964 to enroll in a private drama school.

In the summer of 1967 Fassbinder joined the Action Theater, modeled on American Julian Beck's Living Theater. Two months later, he had become the company's co-director, and when it reorganized under the name "anti-theater," he emerged as its leader. The group lived together and staged a number of controversial and politically radical plays in 1968 and 1969, including some of Fassbinder's original works and adaptations.

Fassbinder's work in the theater, however, was primarily a means toward his goal of making films. He had applied in 1965 to the Berlin Film and Television Academy but failed the entrance exam. In the same year he wrote and directed his first film, a ten-minute short entitled "The City Tramp." During his "anti-theater" period he made ten feature films, including "Love is Colder Than Death" (1969), "Katzelmacher" (1969), and "Beware of a Holy Whore" (1971). Influenced by Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Marie Straub and the theories of Bertolt Brecht, these films are austere and minimalist in style, and although praised by many critics, they proved too demanding and inaccessible for a mass audience. It was during this time, however, that Fassbinder developed his rapid working methods. Using actors and technicians from the "anti-theater" group, he was able to complete films ahead of schedule and often under budget and thus compete successfully for government subsidies.

In search of a wider, more sympathetic audience, Fassbinder turned for a model to Hollywood melodrama, particulary the films of German-trained Douglas Sirk, who made "All That Heaven Allows," "Magnificent Obsession" and "Imitation of Life" for Universal Pictures during the 1950s. Fassbinder was attracted to these films not only because of their entertainment value but also for their depiction of various kinds of repression and exploitation. This mixture of melodrama and politics is evident in Fassbinder's first commercially successful film, "The Merchant of Four Seasons" (1972). But the film that brought him international acclaim was "Ali: Fear Eats the Soul" (1974), which won the International Critics Prize at Cannes in 1974.

"Ali" relates a love story between a German cleaning woman in her fifties and a young Moroccan immigrant worker. The two are drawn to each other out of mutual loneliness. As their relationship becomes known, they experience various forms of hostility and public rejection. Fassbinder makes it apparent that social and economic factors constrain the couple, through his favorite techniques of double-framing shots and extremely long takes of characters looking with objectifying gazes. At the end, Fassbinder withholds a "happy solution" and directs our attention to the ongoing problems of migrant workers. The overall effect of the film is to foreground the tenuous boundaries between public and private life and to stimulate the audience to find a solution to the couple's problems.

Enthusiasm for Fassbinder's films grew quickly after "Ali." Vincent Canby paid tribute to Fassbinder as "the most original talent since Godard," and in 1977, Manhattan's New Yorker Theater held a Fassbinder Festival. That same year saw the release of "Despair." Shot in English on a budget that nearly equalled the cost of his first fifteen films, "Despair" was based on a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, adapted by Tom Stoppard, and starred Dirk Bogarde. Favorable comparisons with such revered directors as Ingmar Bergman, Luis Bunuel, and Luchino Visconti soon followed.

But even as enthusiasm for Fassbinder grew outside of Germany, his films seemed to make little impression on German audiences. At home, he was better known for his work in television ("Eight Hours Are Not a Day," 1972 and the 15 1/2 hour "Berlin Alexanderplatz" 1980) and for a certain notoriety surrounding his lifestyle and open homosexuality. Coupled with the controversial issues that his films took up--terrorism, state violence, racial intolerance, sexual politics--it seemed that everything Fassbinder did provoked or offended someone. Charges leveled against him included anti-Semitism, anti-Communism, and anti-feminism.

With "The Marriage of Maria Braun" (1978) Fassbinder finally attained the popular acceptance he sought, even with German audiences. The film recounts and assesses postwar German history as embodied in the rise and fall of the main character, played by Hanna Schygulla. Its story of manipulation and betrayal exposes Germany's spectacular postwar economic recovery in terms of its cost in human values. In the years following "Maria Braun," Fassbinder made "private" films like "In a Year with Thirteen Moons" (1978) and "The Third Generation" (1979), two of his greatest works, stories that translated personal experiences and attitudes, as well as big budget spectacles like "Lili Marleen" and "Lola" (both 1981). By the time he made his last film, "Querelle" (1982), based on the Jean Genet novel, heavy doses of drugs and alcohol had apparently become necessary to sustain his unrelenting work habits. When Fassbinder was found dead in a Munich apartment on June 10, 1982, the cause of death was reported as heart failure resulting from interaction between sleeping pills and cocaine. The script for his next film, "Rosa Luxemburg," was found next to him. He had wanted Romy Schneider to play the lead.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Acht Stunden sind kein Tag Eine Familienserie (2018)
Director
Martha (1994)
Director
I Only Want You to Love Me (1994)
Director
Lili Marleen (1989)
Director
Die Dritte Generation (1989)
Director
Bolwieser (1989)
Director
Warum Lauft Herr R. Amok? (1989)
Director
Gods of the Plague (1989)
Director
Lola (1989)
Director
Querelle (1982)
Director
Theatre in Trance (1982)
Director
Veronika Voss (1982)
Director
Lola (1981)
Director
Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980)
Director
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)
Director
In a Year of 13 Moons (1979)
Director
Deutschland im Herbst (1978)
Director
Despair (1978)
Director
Frauen in New York (1977)
Director
Chinese Roulette (1976)
Director
Satan's Brew (1976)
Director
Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven (1975)
Director
Fear of Fear (1975)
Director
Wie ein Vogel auf dem Draht (1975)
Director
Fox and His Friends (1975)
Director
Effi Briest (1974)
Director
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
Director
World on a Wire: Part 1 (1973)
Director
World on a Wire: Part 2 (1973)
Director
World on a Wire (1973)
Director
Nora Helmer (1973)
Director
Bremer Freiheit (1972)
Director
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)
Director
Wildwechsel (1972)
Director
Der Handler der vier Jahreszeiten (1972)
Director
The Merchant of Four Seasons (1971)
Director
Beware of a Holy Whore (1971)
Director
Pioniere in Ingolstadt (1970)
Director
Whity (1970)
Director
The American Soldier (1970)
Director
Rio das Mortes (1970)
Director
Love Is Colder Than Death (1969)
Director
Das Kleine Chaos (1966)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Words In Progress (2004)
Himself
Ich Will Nicht Nur, Dass Ihr Mich Liebt (1993)
Himself
Gods of the Plague (1989)
Lili Marleen (1989)
Gunther Weisenhorn
Room 666 (1984)
Himself
Schatten Der Engel (1983)
Raoul
Kamikaze '89 (1982)
Jansen
Veronika Voss (1982)
Man In Cinema
The Wizard of Babylon (1982)
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)
Dealer
Der Kleine Godard (1978)
Deutschland im Herbst (1978)
Himself
Fox and His Friends (1975)
Franz Biberkopf
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
Eugen
1 Berlin Harlem (1974)
Effi Briest (1974)
Narration
Zartlichkeit der Wolfe (1973)
Bremer Freiheit (1972)
Rumpf
Beware of a Holy Whore (1971)
The Merchant of Four Seasons (1971)
Whity (1970)
Guest In Saloon
Rio das Mortes (1970)
The American Soldier (1970)
Love Is Colder Than Death (1969)
Das Kleine Chaos (1966)

Cinematography (Feature Film)

Die Dritte Generation (1989)
Cinematographer
In a Year of 13 Moons (1979)
Director Of Photography

Writer (Feature Film)

Acht Stunden sind kein Tag Eine Familienserie (2018)
Screenplay
Water Drops on Burning Rocks (2000)
Play As Source Material
Martha (1994)
Screenwriter
I Only Want You to Love Me (1994)
Screenwriter
Warum Lauft Herr R. Amok? (1989)
Screenplay (Improvised)
Bolwieser (1989)
Screenwriter
Lola (1989)
Screenplay
Lili Marleen (1989)
Additional Dialogue
Die Dritte Generation (1989)
Screenwriter
Gods of the Plague (1989)
Screenplay
Lili Marleen (1989)
Screenwriter
Schatten Der Engel (1983)
Play As Source Material ("Der Mull Die Stadt Und Der Tod Oder Frankenstein Am Main")
Schatten Der Engel (1983)
Screenwriter
Querelle (1982)
Screenwriter
Veronika Voss (1982)
Screenwriter
Lola (1981)
Writer
Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980)
Screenwriter
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)
Screenplay
In a Year of 13 Moons (1979)
Screenplay
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)
Dialogue
Deutschland im Herbst (1978)
Screenplay
Satan's Brew (1976)
Screenwriter
Chinese Roulette (1976)
Screenwriter
Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven (1975)
Screenwriter
Fox and His Friends (1975)
Screenwriter
Fear of Fear (1975)
Screenwriter
Wie ein Vogel auf dem Draht (1975)
Screenwriter
Effi Briest (1974)
Screenwriter
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
Screenwriter
World on a Wire: Part 2 (1973)
Screenplay
Nora Helmer (1973)
Screenwriter
World on a Wire: Part 1 (1973)
Screenplay
World on a Wire (1973)
Screenwriter
Bremer Freiheit (1972)
Screenwriter
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)
Screenplay
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)
Play As Source Material
Wildwechsel (1972)
Screenwriter
The Merchant of Four Seasons (1971)
Screenplay
Beware of a Holy Whore (1971)
Screenplay
The American Soldier (1970)
Screenplay
Rio das Mortes (1970)
Screenplay
Whity (1970)
Screenwriter
Pioniere in Ingolstadt (1970)
Screenwriter
Love Is Colder Than Death (1969)
Screenplay
Das Kleine Chaos (1966)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

Gods of the Plague (1989)
Producer
Lola (1989)
Executive Producer
Die Dritte Generation (1989)
Producer
In a Year of 13 Moons (1979)
Producer
Chinese Roulette (1976)
Producer
Fox and His Friends (1975)
Producer
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
Executive Producer
Zartlichkeit der Wolfe (1973)
Producer
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)
Executive Producer
The Merchant of Four Seasons (1971)
Producer
Beware of a Holy Whore (1971)
Producer
The American Soldier (1970)
Producer
Love Is Colder Than Death (1969)
Producer

Editing (Feature Film)

Lola (1989)
Editor
Warum Lauft Herr R. Amok? (1989)
Editor
Gods of the Plague (1989)
Editor
Lili Marleen (1989)
Editor
Querelle (1982)
Editor
In a Year of 13 Moons (1979)
Editor
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)
Editor
Zartlichkeit der Wolfe (1973)
Editor
Beware of a Holy Whore (1971)
Editor
The Merchant of Four Seasons (1971)
Editor
Whity (1970)
Editor
Love Is Colder Than Death (1969)
Editor

Music (Feature Film)

Life, Love & Celluloid: A Journey and a Film Retrospective (1997)
Music
The American Soldier (1970)
Song

Art Director (Feature Film)

In a Year of 13 Moons (1979)
Art Director
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
Art Direction
The American Soldier (1970)
Art Director
Love Is Colder Than Death (1969)
Art Director

Production Designer (Feature Film)

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)
Production Designer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Ich Will Nicht Nur, Dass Ihr Mich Liebt (1993)
Other
Visioni Privati (1990)
Other
Room 666 (1984)
Other
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)
Other
Deutschland im Herbst (1978)
Other

Life Events

1965

First short film as director, writer and actor, "Der Stradtstreicher/The City Tramp"

1967

Joined Munich Action-Theater

1968

Founded acting company Anti-Theater

1969

First feature film as director, co-art director and actor, "Liebe ist kalter als der Tod/Love Is Colder Than Death"

1982

Last film, "Querelle"

Videos

Movie Clip

Veronika Voss (1982) - The Mother Of The Floozy Munich, 1955, we’ve just met psychiatrist Katz (Annemarie Düringer), who’s diverted a reporter trying to recover 300-marks from the one-time film star title character (Rosel Zech) whom, we learn, appears to be her captive, who then visits an old producer friend (Peter Berling), in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Veronika Voss, 1982.
Veronika Voss (1982) - Things That Were Never Heard In 1955 Munich, a persistent phone caller awakens newspaper sports reporter Robert (Hilmar Thate) and his girlfriend (Cornelia Froboess), and we learn it was the faded film star he rescued from the rain the day before, in director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s black and white Veronika Voss, 1982.
Veronika Voss (1982) - They Don't Wish To Be Found After his strange second encounter with the title character, a past-her-prime film star with Nazi entanglements, sports reporter Robert (Hiilmar Thate) consults with a colleague (Elisabeth Volkmann) then meets an older couple (pre-WWII German film stars Johanna Hofer and Rudolf Platte) at her supposed address, in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Veronika Voss, 1982.
Veronika Voss (1982) - Insidious Poison Ambitious and arresting, opening the chronological second but the last to be shot, of director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s famous BRD Trilogy, Rosel Zech the movie star title character, Volker Spengler her director, Armin Mueller-Stahl her writer, and Hilmar Thate with the umbrella, from Veronika Voss, 1982, Fassbinder himself seated with the star in the cinema.
Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (1974) - Dark Clothes Look So Sad Both surprised at their cordial meeting after she sought refuge in his favorite Munich bar, Ali (El Hedi ben Salem) has walked Emmi (Brigitte Mira) to her modest apartment, where they share minutia and philosophy and choose to continue, in writer-director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats The Soul, 1974.
Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (1974) - I'd Die Of Shame At work the morning after her tryst with a Moroccan mechanic (“Ali,” the title character), Munich cleaning woman Emmi (Brigitte Mira) with colleagues (Gusti Kreissl et al), who don’t know her conversation is a disguised reference to her new romance, in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats The Soul, 1974.
Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (1974) - Your Mother's Got A Screw Loose First scene for Irm Hermann, one of director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s most frequent collaborators, as Krista, and the director himself as her grouchy husband Eugen, receiving an unexpected visit from her widowed mother Emmi (Brigitte Mira) who drops her bombshell about her new lover, in Ali: Fear Eats The Soul, 1974.
Querelle (1982) - My Hate Was Simply A Camouflage The tensions growing between the brothers, sailor Querelle (Brad Davis) and bon vivant Robert (Hanno Pöschl), with intense profanity, as director Rainer Werner Fassbinder adds other characters (Jeanne Moreau, Franco Nero) in an unprompted procession of Christ bearing the cross, and choreographed combat, in Querelle, 1982.
Querelle (1982) - Open, Based On Querelle De Brest The extraordinary opening from director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s final, posthumously released, film, with narration from the Jean Genet novel, introducing Jeanne Moreau, Hanno Pöschl as her lover, Günther Kaufmann her husband, a glimpse of Franco Nero, then Brad Davis as the title character, in Querelle, 1982.
Querelle (1982) - The Two Brothers Resuming the narration from the loosely-followed Jean Genet novel, director Rainer Werner Fassbinder brings his title character (Brad Davis) into the highly stylized brothel, meeting the proprietor Jeanne Moreau, his brother Hanno Pöschl, her husband, the barkeeper Günther Kaufmann and the cop Mario (Burkhard Driest), in Querelle, 1982.
Lola (1981) - The Soul Is Sad Opening scene from director Rainer Werner Fassbinder in the second film in his "BRD" trilogy, Barbara Sukowa the title character, Matthias Fuchs as companion Esslin, Mario Adorf as Schuckert, Karl Bohm "The Mayor," set in the German city of Coburg in 1957, Lola, 1981.
Lola (1981) - Ten Years Of Peace Karin Baal, playing the mother of the title character (Barbara Sukowa, not seen), has her first proper visit with her new boarder, the new building commissioner in town, Von Bohm (Armin Mueller-Stahl), (West) Germany in 1957, in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Lola, 1981.

Family

Liselotte Pempeit
Mother
Actor, translator. Divorced when Fassbinder was five in 1951; acted in Fassbinder's films.

Companions

Ingrid Caven
Wife
Actor. Married in 1970, then divorced.
Juliane Lorenz
Companion
Editor. Worked on Fassbinder's films; together from 1977 until his death.

Bibliography

"Rainer Werner Fassbinder"
edited by Laurence Kardish, with Julianne Lorenz, Museum of Modern Art (1997)