Occasionally Rainer Werner Fassbinder let members of his core team make their own films, in one case with outstanding results. THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES (DIE ZÄRTLICHKEIT DER WÖLFE), hailed by Jan Dawson in Sight and Sound as “an expressionist revival,” was written by Kurt Raab, who also played the film’s protagonist, the serial killer Fritz Haarmann. Fassbinder had known Raab since joining the Action Theater ensemble in Munich, and the film’s director, Ulli Lommel, had been a member of the RWF “family” since playing the main role in Fassbinder’s first film, LOVE IS COLDER THAN DEATH.
The film about Haarman was shot over 24 days in autumn 1972 in the Ruhr. At the time Fassbinder was working with his people at the Bochum Theater, and rehearsals for his production of Liliom, in which Lommel and Raab also had roles, overlapped with the film shoot. These conditions had a decisive influence on the film. Many of the actors―who along with Kurt Raab included Margit Carstensen, Ingrid Caven, Brigitte Mira, Rosel Zech and Fassbinder himself―had to rehearse at the theater in the mornings and then go on to shoot scenes for the film, which resulted in working days of 15 hours and more. Moreover, the tight schedule also prescribed the landscape and time in which the film was set. Whereas Fritz Haarmann’s murders of young boys were committed in Hannover in the 1920s, the film is set in the period following the Second World War in the area around Bochum and Gelsenkirchen.
Raab plays the murderer without any hair because Fassbinder had told him to shave his head for the production of Liliom. Commenting on the film’s cinematic premiere in the competition section of the Berlin Film Festival, Der Speigel wrote at the end of June in 1973; “This was not intended as a documentary piece but more as a sinister cinematic fairytale about an almost endearing monster in human form. That it achieves this aim is due to Raab’s intense performance (he looks like the young Peter Lorre) and Lommel’s artful direction, which creates a ballad pitched between colportage and poetry.”
Exactly 40 years after it was made, THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES (which was shot by Jürgen Jürges) is to be shown for the first time on television at 12.05 a.m. on Thursday December 1, 2011 on ARTE in the HD-restored version recently produced by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation.
THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES on ARTE