With the 52nd BERLIN THEATER FESTIVAL (1 to 17 May) marking the seventieth year since the birth of the director, actor and author with its “FOCUS FASSBINDER” program and the German Film Institute/German Film Museum (DIF/DFM) presenting the EXHIBITION Fassbinder – NOW in collaboration with the Fassbinder Foundation at the Martin-Gropius-Bau (6 May to 23 August 2015), Berlin is emerging this year as the national epicenter of a new exploration of Fassbinder’s life and work. RWF’s work has proved a vital force for many years now on stages in Germany and throughout the world – and particularly in this city.
Susanne Kennedy’s radical production of Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?, which is based in Fassbinder’s film of the same name, has been invited to the Berlin Theater Festival, and Berlin’s Gorki Theater is currently presenting a highly praised stage adaption of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (directed by Hakan Savaş Mican) to constantly full houses. Ruth Reinicke as the cleaning woman Emmi and Taner Sahinitürk as Ali play their respective characters as very much of today’s world and are winning plaudits from audiences made up of all age groups. The revival with a new cast of Thomas Ostermeier’s stage production of The Marriage of Maria Braun is a very different animal. A meditation on and ingenious development of Fassbinder’s cinematic masterpiece, Ostermeier’s production was first conceived in 2007 for the Munich Kammerspiele and has been in the repertoire of Berlin’s Schaubühne since 2009. As Ostermeier’s first Maria Braun, Brigitte Hobmeier gave an extraordinary and highly praised performance. The role is now being played by Ursina Lardi, who brings out very different facets of a “self-inventing modern woman.” The production is full of changes in costume and gender, with four male actors enthusiastically embracing the challenges of playing a mother, husband, lover, girlfriend, doctor, soldier, barman, lawyer, journalist, businessman, judge and notary, all of whom circle around the figure of Maria Braun, who remains Maria and the only woman on stage. The Schaubühne is also presenting Angst essen Deutschland auf (Fear Eats Germany), performed, compiled and directed by Patrick Wengenroth: Germany, 1982. Rainer Werner Fassbinder dies. In Upper Bavaria the Germany military’s 250th Starfighter crashes. Nicole wins the Eurovision Song Contest with “A Little Peace.” Helmut Kohl becomes Federal Chancellor. Berlin, 2013. Drawing on 500 pages of original interviews (Fassbinder über Fassbinder, Verlag der Autoren, 2005), this evening of theater explores Germany’s emotional disposition today, yesterday and the day after tomorrow.
A comprehensive catalog titled Fassbinder NOW. Film and Video Art (in English and German) has been published to accompany the exhibition in the Martin-Gropius-Bau along with a separate catalog on the work of Fassbinder’s costume designer, Barbara Baum, to whom a special section of the exhibition is dedicated. Both publications are a feast for cineastes and for the eye. And last but not least I am delighted to announce that my wonderful publisher friend Lothar Schirmer (Schirmer/Mosel, Munich, New York) has reissued the book of Fassbinder’s writings I edited in 2005, Im Land des Apfelbaums – Gedichte und Prosa aus den Kölner Jahren 1962/1963. Characterized by the freedom, ecstasy and rhythm that form the mainsprings of Fassbinder’s work and poetic expression, these early poems already feature the themes that he explored throughout his life and that informed his films and plays: loneliness, death, yearning, love both won and lost, and love as impossible and yet essential. They also reveal a deep sympathy for the less fortunate, for people often searching for a God who remains a dream, a God people can only find by creating him. Another major event for us is the publication, after 20 years of planning, of R. W. Fassbinder. Illustriertes Werkverzeichnis 1969 – 1982. Die Filme (Illustrated Catalog of Works 1969 – 1982. The Films). Thanks to the tireless work of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation, a number of Fassbinder film classics, including Love is Colder than Death and The Marriage of Maria Braun, have been meticulously restored on a 4K basis, which will enable us to produced new HD and Blu-ray DVD editions for national and international distribution in this and the coming year.
This completes our brief tour of coming events in this year of Fassbinder. I am also very much looking forward to my evening with Marc Hosemann at the Berlin bookshop autorenbuchhandlung on Mai, 13th 2015 at 8 p.m. Fassbinder would certainly have been pleased to have Marc read his texts and poems. Tickets are available in the bookshop on Savignyplatz and at www.autorenbuchhandlung.com
Photo left: Setphoto of THE MERCHANT OF FOUR SEASONS , © DIF Frankfurt, Foto: Peter Gauhe
Photo right: THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN , © Schaubühne / Arno Declair