If you’re a fan of German cinema or the art house scene of the 1970s, then you’re likely already familiar with Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The German director, writer, and actor is considered to be an important figure in the New German Cinema movement that took place from the 1960s until the 1980s.
The Criterion Collection has honored a number of his films. The works are typically low budget, filmed quickly, and full of gritty realism along with commentary on society. Although Fassbinder died in 1982 at the age of 37, he made an astonishing 40 full-length films.
This month, let’s better get to know Rainer Werner Fassbinder and practice the German language at the same time.
Get to Know Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Rainer Werner Fassbinder was born May 31, 1945 in the Bavarian town of Bad Wörishofen. He was the only child whose mother was a translator and his father a doctor.
In 1951, Fassbinder’s parents divorced and he was raised in Munich by his mother. As the child of a working single mother, Fassbinder often found himself alone at the movies.
As a teenager, he decided to pursue his love of film. He studied acting and soon became involved in the film world. He began making 8mm films as well as taking small roles (both in front of and behind the camera) on film projects.
In 1969, he released his debut feature-length film, Love Is Colder Than Death. Fassbinder’s connection to Munich can be seen in many of his projects, which were set and filmed in the city.
And by the time of his untimely death at 37 in 1982, he had made over 40 films in addition to television and theater projects.
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Angst essen Seele auf)
When Ali, a Moroccan guest worker in Germany, becomes involved with Emmi, an older German woman working as a maid, society doesn’t approve. But the couple’s relationship seems genuine and she is smitten. Emmi likes caring for and learning about the younger man while he appreciates her friendship and her selflessness.
The couple’s relationship is put to the test, however, as Emmi’s coworkers begin ignoring her, her local grocer won’t sell to her and her own children make it clear they don’t approve. Meanwhile, Ali’s friends aren’t very encouraging either.
Watch for Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s cameo in Ali: Fear Eats the Soul as Emmi’s son-in-law Eugen.
Fox and His Friends (Faustrecht der Freiheit)
In Fox and His Friends, Fox (portrayed by Fassbinder himself) is a down on his luck circus performer but he always believes it’s his lucky week. To make ends meet, he starts hustling men.
Things change when Fox has a bit of luck when he wins the lottery. Seeing his newfound wealth, the people he thinks are his friends start to take advantage of him. That includes his new boyfriend who is happy to spend Fox’s money on a lavish apartment, clothing, and exciting and glitzy life.
But the money hasn’t made Fox happy, especially after he invests in the failing family business of his boyfriend, only to see the money disappear.
Merchant of Four Seasons (Händler der vier Jahreszeiten)
1972’s The Merchant of Four Seasons is set in 1950s Munich. Hans is a fruit merchant who takes his cart around to different apartment buildings. As much as he tries, Hans can’t seem to make his family happy. His customers mock him.
When Hans attempts to change his path, things seem to only get worse.
Practice practice practice! Discover other great German-language actors and actresses previously featured.
This post contains affiliate links.