Was ist es denn?

In a Year of 44 Films (My Year in Fassbinder)

It all started out innocently enough as a dare. When I found myself suddenly and unexpectedly unemployed, my husband dared me to watch every Fassbinder film available, in order, and write about it. I don’t know what exactly he expected, but what started out as a half-hearted pledge has turned into something bigger (for me at least).

Forty-four films (more or less—there are many ways to count them) over the course of a single year turned out to be too much for me. I’m already well into my second year of the project, so it’s really My Years in Fassbinder—or My Life in Fassbinder—we’re talking about here. But who’s counting, besides me and my husband?

In any event, my goal as it has evolved is to take this incredibly large and very dense body of work and watch it in the order it was created—which is to say, to view this one extraordinary body of work as it was actually built over time—to trace an evolution, rather than look at the work as a whole, pulling out individual films more or less at random (as you would, say, at a retrospective or in a film class). This, after all, is how Germans would have experienced Fassbinder in the 1960s and 70s, and I want to replicate that experience to the extent that that is possible. (I’ve set myself some ground rules, but I can’t promise I’ll always adhere to them. To slavishly obey rules, ground or otherwise, would be most un-Fassbinderlike, don’t you think?)

Finally, I want to try to make sense of Fassbinder’s work without the benefit of the many global thematic or theoretical analyses already available: to come to an understanding of the whole through a study of its parts as they were constructed in time rather than viewing the parts through the lens of an already constructed whole. And if that sounds too theoretical, it’s just to say that I want to see if I can make sense of this insanely dense body of films without recourse to other reviewers’ explanations and theory, the way a movie and TV spectator would have watched them at the time they were made. (Which is a hell of a lot easier said than done. )

Addendum: It’s also why my readings of the earlier films, inevitably, suffer from a lack of context. This is the weakness of my premise: what’s fascinating to me—figuring it out as I go along—is bound to be tedious for the reader, especially at the beginning.

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