Resources

Essays by and Interviews with RWF
The Anarchy of the Imagination: Interviews, Essays, Notes
, eds. Michael Toteberg and Leo A. Lensing (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1992)

Interviews with RWF’s Colleagues
Chaos as Usual: Conversations About Rainer Werner Fassbinder
, ed. Juliane Lorenz (New York: Applause Press, 1997)

Biography
Fassbinder: Film Maker
, Ronald Hayman (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984)

Cultural History (I’m patiently waiting until I’m done to read this, but the few pages I have read are excellent if academic)
Fassbinder’s Germany: History Identity Subject, Thomas Elsaesser (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1996)

Fassbinder News
The Fassbinder Foundation, http://www.fassbinderfoundation.de/node.php/en/home

6 Responses to Resources

  1. Pingback: Berlin Alexanderplatz, Part XI: Knowledge Is Power and the Early Bird Catches the Worm (1980) | In a Year with 44 Films

  2. Pingback: Berlin Alexanderplatz – Part XIII: The Outside and the Inside and the Secret of Fear of the Secret (1980) | In a Year with 44 Films

  3. Pingback: Berlin Alexanderplatz – Part XIV: Epilogue – My Dream of Franz Biberkopf’s Dream by Alfred Döblin (1980) | In a Year with 44 Films

  4. Pingback: Lili Marleen (1981) | In a Year with 44 Films

  5. Todd Hyatt says:

    Dear E. A.:

    Regarding your discussion of the epilogue (part XIV) of “Berlin Alexanderplatz”:

    Dean Martin, not Bing Crosby, sings “Silent Night.”

    Also, although your essay is generally most helpful to understanding the behemoth, I must take issue with the following assertion:

    “( . . . Franz’s failure to acknowledge his feelings for Reinhold, for example, or even to grasp the ways the existing power structure ensures the misery of the working classes and turns men like Franz into cannon fodder, seem no less serious than killing his girlfriend).”

    Franz Biberkopf’s killing of his girlfriend, Ida, is infinitely more serious than his inability “to grasp the ways the existing power structure ensures the misery of the working classes.” I doubt that Ida, or, for that matter, any of Franz’s many girlfriends, would appreciate being subordinated to a lesson in Marxism. The collective suffering of the working class, I venture to say, was about the last thing on Ida’s or Franz’s mind as Franz beat her to death with a cream whip.

    Somehow reality, or real life, is not as theoretical as a disquisition on the exploitation of the proletariat.

    Unlike you, I plump always for the individual and oppose and despise the collective and class consciousness with every fiber in my being.

    Yes: I’ll take Ida over the proletariat any day of the week — and twice on Sundays.

    It’s a point of view unpopular in classrooms all over the decadent, self-loathing Western world.

    Call me a filthy recusant or a red-blooded, all-American boy.

    Rock and roll.

    Sincerely yours,

    Todd S. Hyatt
    Laramie, Wyoming, U.S.A.
    mdhlch@juno.com

    • Thank you for the tip re: Silent Night. I must have been thinking of White Christmas when I said Bing.

      As to the rest of your critique, I am not entirely sure how to respond. It has been seven years since I watched or wrote about Berlin Alexanderplatz, so it is not at all fresh in my memory. But since it is clear to me you have mistaken my reading of certain motifs in the conclusion of BA for my personal opinions about the content of those motifs or threads, I feel I must try. I do have to wonder whether you watched the series in its entirety and, if so, how much of your beef is with me and how much with Fassbinder.

      First, and I can’t believe I have to say this, I do not think that murdering one’s girlfriend is less of a crime than the failure “to grasp the ways the existing power structure ensures the misery of the working classes.” That would be perverse and absurdly dogmatic, cartoon Marxism. (I am not even a Marxist.) Do you really think that was the point I was trying to make? Or have you forgotten the role that communism plays in the battle for Franz Biberkopf’s soul?

      If notions of working class-consciousness and solidarity play an outsize role in BA it is because Döblin and Fassbinder put them there; the question of collective versus individual loyalty, for example, and the struggle for hegemony between communism and National Socialism is a theme that runs throughout BA. I’m sure you don’t need a history lesson, but I’ll just remind you for the sake of clarity that the major forces (moral, political, cultural), the -isms vying for supremacy in Weimar Berlin, were indeed communism and National Socialism, as well as Christianity and Judaism, Capitalist individualism (crime, mostly) and collectivism (communism again). These are the movements that Biberkopf careens between, fragments of which stick in his psyche like newspaper headlines or snatches of songs on the radio. His inability to make anything out of them, or rather his inability to make anything of himself through them, is perceived in the tribunal of his delirium as a failure or a crime. (Any movement that promises salvation also levels judgment.) And so these, naturally, inform the complex, often bewildering, accusations from the many voices in his own head that comprise Franz Biberkopf’s last judgment.

      This is what I meant when I wrote the sentence you take issue with, but did not situate in context or quote in its entirety:

      “Do all these crimes really warrant the same punishment, though?
      In Berlin Alexanderplatz I think they do, though possibly in reverse order of importance to the conventional moral wisdom. (Here, Franz’s failure to acknowledge his feelings for Reinhold, for example, or even to grasp the ways the existing power structure ensures the misery of the working classes and turns men like Franz into cannon fodder, seem no less serious than killing his girlfriend). . .”

      The moral logic, in other words, is that of the film, not the reviewer.

      Second, Berlin Alexanderplatz is a modernist text interpreted by an antirealist director as deeply influenced by Bertolt Brecht and Antonin Artaud as he was by Douglas Sirk. As such—and again I am sorry to have to say this because I am sure it must be obvious—Ida is not a person. She is a figure, a device, a symbol, the first in a series of two-dimensional lambs to the slaughter in the story of Franz Biberkopf. And while her death is horrifying, we are clearly meant to interpret it in a different way than we would in a more comforting work. We are certainly not invited nor encouraged to speculate as to what was “on her mind” when Franz beat her to death with that cream whip. (As I have harped on repeatedly throughout this blog, melodrama prioritizes action and plot over character. RWF is the undisputed master of modernist melodrama.)

      Again, your critique of my interpretation seems to ignore the work itself. Do you really think BA’s depiction of women in working-class Weimar Berlin reflects the author’s—or my—opinion of the value of women’s lives? It does not. It reflects the value of women’s lives—poor women’s lives, women who were expected to be prostitutes because that was what you had to do to make ends meet—in Berlin society in the streets around the Alex in the late 1920s. The repetition of that one scene of Ida’s death—for that is what she has been reduced to: Ida, the one Franz beat to death—and especially the cold, clinical “scientific” narration that overlays our first exposure to it, only underscores this. Ida is a body subject to forces, in life as in death. I don’t know about you, but I find this quite poignant. But then I am a fan of Brecht.

      I don’t know how you came to this blog, but I am going to assume, given your comments, that you have not followed my journey through Fassbinder’s oeuvre. And that’s fine. But if you had, you would know that what I admire most about Fassbinder as an artist is his fierce sense of humanity and, yes, his staunch individualism, his defiant rejection of dogma or cant or whatever you want to call it. My reviews are largely intuitive, sometimes tedious, based on multiple viewings and a lot of deliberation, and may not always be as clear as they should be, I admit. But one thing they are not is facile, pre-packaged, or driven by some received ideological agenda. Your assumption that I value theoretical disquisition on the exploitation of the proletariat over “real life” or, worse, that my opinions were forged “in classrooms all over the decadent, self-loathing Western world” suggests to me that yours might be the agenda that is ideologically driven.

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