Newsletter December 2019

The year 2019 is ending with sad news. On 4 December the well-known German film scholar Thomas Elsaesser died at the age of 76. In 1996 Elsaesser, whose publications include books on topics such as Weimar cinema, Hollywood, Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”, and the films of Harun Farocki, published a seminal monograph on Fassbinder’s work titled “Fassbinder’s Germany: History Identity Subject”, which shifted the focus away from the director’s excessive lifestyle and onto his work.

“This is a very rigorous, very meticulous, very elaborate book”, wrote Peter W. Jansen, who himself had coauthored, with Wolfram Schütte, an important monograph on Fassbinder a few years previously. In Elsaesser’s book the author considers Fassbinder not only in the context of German history and identity but also as an artist who ultimately had more in common with Pier Paolo Pasolini and Nagisa Oshima than with his fellow Germans.

An excerpt in English is available at: EN A German excerpt has been published online by the publishers Bertz + Fischer, from whom the book can also be purchased: DE A comprehensive list of Elsaesser’s publications including numerous excerpts and downloads can be found on his website: EN

But the year is also ending with good news, and we would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Udo Kier on turning 75 on 14 October. He and Fassbinder already met as teenagers in Cologne in the early 1960s. Almost two decades later they met again in Munich, when they worked together on on Fassbinder’s two-part television film BOLWIESER (1977), which was based on a book by the Bavarian writer Oskar Maria Graf. Kier’s role in the film became the first of many he played in Fassbinder’s films.

In an interview with the Munich newspaper tz Udo Kier described Fassbinder’s way of working as “very precise”: “For example, when we were working on BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ (1980) almost everything was done in a single take. And when as an actor you said, ‘Oh, come on, can’t I do that again?’, you had no chance. And if he didn’t like something you did, he told you, in front of everybody. It was something we all got used to it.” The complete interview can be found at: DE

Today, Udo Kier remains an extremely busy actor and one who has little time for the outdated distinction between high and popular culture. In an interview with the radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, he discusses his many and varied roles: DE

One of the highpoints for the RWFF this year was the opening of the Fassbinder Center in Frankfurt am Main. A short radio feature on the opening is available on the website of the broadcaster SWR:,aexavarticle-swr-38514.html DE The center’s website can be accessed at: DE

Of course, Fassbinder’s oeuvre is not only confined to the archives. Every year his films and plays are presented on screens and stages throughout the world. Currently a double bill is running at Mannheim’s National Theater, where directors Jennifer Peterson and Leonie Thies have adapted the films WHY DOES HERR R. RUN AMOK? (1970) and VERONIKA VOSS (1982) for the stage. The schedule for both twin and single performances of the plays in Mannheim can be found at: DE

Also worth noting down is an event planned for the Long Night of the Books in Frankfurt. On 16 February various Frankfurt publishing houses will be presenting themselves in one-hour readings and discussions. It is planned that one of these presentations will be devoted to a discussion of Fassbinder featuring Karlheinz Braun (cofounder of the Verlag der Autoren), Hans-Peter Reichmann (Director of the Fassbinder Center) and RWFF President Juliane Maria Lorenz. We will be providing more information closer to the event.

The year 2020 will see the next big anniversary for all those interested in RWF’s work. On 31 May 2020 Fassbinder would have turned 75, and the occasion is being marked by, among other things, a new production by Michael Thalheimer, who staged WHY DOES HERR R. RUN AMOK? for Schauspiel Frankfurt in 2003. The Berliner Ensemble will premiere its new production of “Katzelmacher” on 21 February. More information on the production is available on the theater’s website: DE

Before taking our winter break, we would like to wish our readers and friends peaceful holidays over the Christmas period and a Happy New Year. We will be back in 2020 with more news from the world of Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

More on the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder: DE EN FR

More on the theater plays of Rainer Werner Fassbinder: DE EN FR

Photo left: Udo Kier in ,,Die Dritte Generation’’. Photographer: Maximilian Johannsmann © Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation
Photo right: Photo from Jennifer Peterson‘s production of “Veronika Voss” © Nationaltheater Mannheim / Christian Kleiner