Sunday, June 08, 2008

Fassbinder bric-a-brac

I was looking around for some information on Hanna Schygulla after watching The Edge of Heaven a couple of days back and found this short interview of her with Susan Sontag. Actually it's Sontag who does most of the talking but still it is interesting. She also had a short role in Bela Tarr's Werckmesiter Harmonies but she didn't have much to do in it (unlike in Heaven) which was specially disappointing since her character in the book is really one of the most important. Anyway, the film isn't really a character-based drama so it works out pretty well, the film is quite great actually.


I love these chapter titles in Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz. These are not from the book, they are all Fassbinder's inventions...

1. "The punishment begins."
2. "How is one to live if he doesn't want to die."
3. "A hammer on the head can injure the soul."
4. "A handful of people in the depths of silence."
5. "A mower with the violence of the dear Lord."
6. "Love has its price."
7. "Remember: an oath can be amputated."
8. "The sun warms the skin, but burns it sometimes too."
9. "About the Eternities between the many and the few."
10. "Loneliness tears cracks of madness even in walls."
11. "Knowledge is power and the early bird catches the worm."
12. "The serpent in the soul of the serpent."
13. "The Outside and the Inside, and the Secret of Fear of the Secret."
14. "My dream from the dream of Franz Biberkopf von Alfred Doeblin: An Epilogue."


I was reading some reviews of Berlin Alexanderplatz on amazon and there was a one-star comment which expressed a strong disapproval of scenes of animal slaughter in the film. This is something that troubles me too whenever I see scenes of animal abuse in a film, even in the "certified" works of art. How ethical is it to torture a real animal just to prove a symbolic point, however vital that may be because with animals the concept of "acting" is not applicable at all. It is always "real" for them. It is probably as ethical as killing them for meat... (I speak as a vegetarian but one who is somewhat confused and non-committal about the philosophical concepts surrounding Animal Rights)

That said, the slaughterhouse imagery and the sacrifice of the lambs are indeed extremely important in the film because they serve as one of the key motifs and the central metaphor of the work. In the hallucinatory final epilogue Fassbinder even shows human beings being slaughtered (symbolically of course) and being hanged on a hook like raw meat. For Biberkopf life is just waiting for a final slaughter with a persistent voice, a stand-in for an embodied Death who in turn seems like God himself, telling him what the final life-lesson is going to be like. There are also elements of Passion play with Biberkopf playing the Christ-like figure alongwith references to other Biblical stories of God's cruelty and ruthlessness, the story of Job and the story of Abraham and Isaac. It is also interesting that "Death" is voiced by Fassbinder himself.

After all this I really do hope that the horrible death of Mieze's beautiful little Canary was simulated and not real!

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