Nicola Passarotto
Literature, Cinema

“I’d like to be for cinema what Shakespeare was for theatre, Marx for politics and Freud for psychology: someone after whom nothing is as it used to be”. Thus, he writes, poised between utopia and reality, one of the most prodigious manifestations in cinema’s history: Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1945 – 1982). At 15, he declared himself homosexual by dropping out of school. Still very young, at 17, he wrote forty-five poems and four short stories, to be given to his mother on Christmas 1962. The themes are already those of his life: intimate and social identity, passion for storytelling, desire, and above all love, which is the driving force behind everything. He will then fully develop them, seized by an unprecedented creative (and existential) voracity, in the years to come through the art of cinema.

Radical and experimental director, outsider of the New German Cinema (Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders are the other leading exponents), brilliant theatrical actor, actor with a brutish charisma, precocious screenwriter but also director of photography, editor, producer, composer and writer. He made his debut in 1969 with Love Is Colder Than Death, presented at the Berlin Film Festival. And during the next 13 years, he will direct over 40 films, 24 plays, two TV series.

Fassbinder Fassbinder wanted to write an unforgettable piece of film history.

Blending the formal language and narrative styles of Hollywood melodramas and gangster films, he confronts the Nazi past, the economic miracle, and German society’s moral hypocrisy. Among his masterpieces, the meta-cinematographic Beware of a Holy Whore (or in other words, the movie camera; 1971), divine and perverse presence of the set; the theatrical and perfect melodrama The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972); the science fiction miniseries with metaphysical and Godardian outlines World on a Wire (1973); the moving reinterpretation of Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows with Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974). The exploration of the taboo of homosexual desire and class conflicts in the remarkable Fox and his Friends (1975). The sinuous and cruelly surreal Despair; the dazzling, magnificent meditation on suicide A year of 13 moons and the disturbing, explosive post-war portrait The Marriage of Maria Braun (all three in the same year, 1978).

He will systematically involve friends, lovers (women and men) and former lovers in his films. He will invent stars: from Hanna Schygulla (the muse), Margit Carstensen and Irm Hermann to Volker Spengler, Gottfried John and Günter Lamprecht. On television, he brings his most daring and experimental work: Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980). In contrast between the dazzling white of Veronika Voss and the warm overdose of Querelle, the two films that close his artistic parable and, at the same time, his existence, bring out his entire universe of dreams, ambitions, reality.

To keep up with his creative delirium, she mixed astonishing work discipline with copious alcohol and drug doses. In May 1982, he participated in the documentary Chambre 666, directed by Wim Wenders, together with other directors (such as Antonioni, Godard and Spielberg). It will be the last artistic testimony of Rainer Werner Fassbinder who, a month later, on 10 June 1982, died of a cocaine overdose exacerbated by barbiturates in his home in Munich, at the age of 37.

This video-essay highlights a less central theme in the Fassbinderian world (recognizable above all in a melancholy language tinged with aggression), that of romanticism. However, inserted within a complex and often anarchic melodramatic architecture. A quotation from the philosopher Umberto Galimberti (divided into several fragments) accompanies the German director’s images from start to finish, linked to the notes of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata.

Fassbinder wanted to write an unforgettable piece of film history and, he succeeded.

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