The Berlinale, Berlin’s renowned film festival, is just around the corner. From 9 to 19 February, Potsdamer Platz will once become a Mecca of the film world. This year as in other years the festival program includes a number of screenings we think our readers will be particularly interested in – above all the restored version of Fassbinder’s working-class TV series EIGHT HOURS DON’T MAKE A DAY. In his Fassbinder monograph, the film scholar Thomas Elsaesser describes the series as an outstanding example of a “brave but short-lived attempt to open up West German public television to social reality. […] The five episodes are critical and entertaining in equal measure, and address typical issues while also leaving scope for imagining a better and more self-aware life for those who bore the main burden of the ‘economic miracle’.” In addition, on 13 February EIGHT HOURS DON’T MAKE A DAY is being released on DVD and Blu-ray by Studiocanal. More information on the release can be found on the distributor’s website: http://www.studiocanal.de/blu-ray/fassbinders_acht_stunden_sind_kein_tag-blu-ray
The Forum section of this year’s Berlinale includes a new film by Nicolas Wackerbarth, who is known above all for his connection with the so-called Berlin School of filmmakers and as a co-editor of the film journal Revolver. According to the film’s press release, CASTING is about “self-exposure and affection, fears and power games.” The plot centers on a film project beset with numerous problems, which is based on Fassbinder’s THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT. Made up of mostly improvised scenes, CASTING’s cast includes Andreas Lust, Ursina Lardi, Corinna Kirchhoff and Andrea Sawatzki. More information is available in the website of the broadcaster Südwestrundfunk: http://www.swr.de/film/casting-von-nicolas-wackerbarth-filmisches-experiment/-/id=5791128/did=17485502/nid=5791128/1y6efwy/index.html
Among the films making up the festival’s Panorama section is Annekatrin Hendel’s new documentary FÜNF STERNE (Five Stars), the starting point of which is a minimalistic situation comprising “two friends and a camera.” Hendel’s film is an “adventure recounted from the narrow slice of reality represented by 40 square meters of a large seaside hotel. The film shows how difficult it sometimes is to separate the private and public spheres when one is ‘connected to the net.’ How the internet becomes a drug and what can happen when you allow yourself to be fooled in the search for love and few ‘shares & likes’.” On 8 February at 10 p.m. Hendel’s documentary FASSBINDER, which was co-produced by the RWFF, will be shown on the TV channel ARTE.
For all those who do not make it to the Berlinale there are also good reasons to make a visit to the cinema in February. On 23 February, LOVING, the new film by Jeff Nichols, will be released in cinemas. The director has meanwhile outgrown American independent cinema and has now made a film set in the American South in the 1950s about a couple who are not able to marry because he is white and she is black. Like Fassbinder’s FEAR EATS THE SOUL, the film tells the story of a love that flouts social conventions and as a result is severely tested. But whereas Fassbinder sees the problem as also lying with the couple themselves, in Nichols’ case it is exclusively a bigoted society that repeatedly confronts the relationship with new obstacles. A trailer for the film can be viewed at:
Paul Verhoeven’s latest film is due for release in cinemas on 16 February. The Dutch director’s ELLE is a funny and provocative erotic thriller about a woman who, following a rape, allows herself to be drawn into a dangerous role-playing game with her rapist. Although Verhoeven is primarily regarded as a Hollywood genre director– and thus a world apart from Fassbinder – numerous parallels can be found in the work of the two filmmakers. Both tell stories of emotional exploitation, the instrumentalization of love and sex, the repressive power of fascist systems and the inhuman conditions of a capitalist world. When we look below the surface, characters such as Maria Braun and the dancer Nomi in Verhoeven’s SHOWGIRLS are not so very different. As women intent on determining their own lives, they quickly learn that the system can only be combated when one follows the rules of the game. A trailer for Verhoeven’s ELLE is available at:
One of Fassbinder’s films will soon be screened at Berlin’s Arsenal cinema, which is devoting its monthly Magical History Tour to the theme of “the body.” The themed series includes films by Boris Barnet, Claire Denis and Tod Browning as well as Fassbinder’s IN A YEAR OF 13 MOONS, which will be screened on 4 and 9 February and, according to the description in the program, shows “19 fragments of unhappiness and misfortune, rejection and crisis all inscribed onto an increasingly damaged body.” The Arsenal’s website can be found at:
At the end of January an old acquaintance from Fassbinder’s work can be experienced “live.” In December last year Eva Mattes solved her last case as police superintendent Klara Blum in the German crime series TATORT. In the episode WOFÜR ES SICH ZU LEBEN LOHNT (What is worth living for) Mattes was joined in front of the camera by Irm Hermann, Hanna Schygulla und Margit Carstensen. To mark the occasion, the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung conducted an interview with the Fassbinder divas, which can be read at:
Unfortunately the interview is only available to readers with a SZ-Plus membership or trial subscription. However, there is also an interview with Schygulla, Mattes and director Aelrun Goette available for everyone on the Deutschlandradio Kultur website in both audio and print:
On 29 January at 7:30 p.m. Eva Mattes is appearing live in the studio of the Akademie der Künste on Berlin’s Pariser Platz. The program, titled “Werft eure Herzen über alle Grenzen” (Launch your hearts across all borders), is billed as a literary-musical journey about “love and homeland, flight and exile” and includes works by Kurt Weill, Heinrich Heine and Wolf Biermann. Tickets cost 15 euros (concession 12 euros) and can either be purchased online at: http://www.adk.de/de/programm/?we_objectID=56267 or reserved via the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
We wish our readers and friends an exciting time at the Berlinale, in the cinema or wherever else they find themselves. We will back in February again with more news from the world of Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
More on the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder:
Photo left: Irm Hermann and Hanna Schygulla in EIGHT HOURS DON’T MAKE A DAY © Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation
Photo right: Isabelle Huppert in ELLE © SBS Productions, Twenty Twenty Vision Filmproduktion, France 2 Cinéma & Entre Chien et Loup