Posts Tagged ‘Rainer Werner Fassbinder’

Maybe We Belong Together

November 3, 2007

Love Is Colder Than Death

Love Is Colder Than Death
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
1969

lakelia says:

I really have no idea why this film bears its title. There was love, in one or two of the many senses that people use that word, and there was death, more than once, and throughout the story there was definitely coldness. But I couldn’t say why these ideas are strung together this way in the title.

This film, the first one I’ve seen of Fassbinder’s, didn’t offer me much in the way of plot, or dialogue, or ideas. I found the story to be rather boring. Maybe the handful of examples (or has it just been one or two?) I’ve already seen of the they-dabble-in-crime-and-then-go-overboard-and-then-they-pay story have pretty much sated my appetite for the genre.

I did find Fassbinder’s stylistic touches to be interesting, though. From the first scene on, I was struck by the way that the film seemed like a play. There was a series of simple sets, each scene staying put on its own, without much change in camera angle. There was absolutely no blood, despite the numerous gunshot wounds. There were many long holds of close-ups on faces, before or after the character spoke. That touch of directing was probably the one thing I found most unique and interesting about the film – although I can’t say it held my interest very long. Of course, I can get caught up in just about any story while I’m reading or watching it, I am still very much enjoying listening to German and picking up a familiar word or phrase here and there, and it will be interesting to have seen this early film when we see more of Fassbinder, so it wasn’t all for naught.

lakelia’s rating: 3 Stars

bakinakwa says:

Another leftover from German Film Month, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s debut full-length feature also happens to be my first taste of the work of the famed director.  In all honesty, beyond name recognition and the fact that he is considered by many to be one of the greatest German directors, I didn’t know much about him going in.  After seeing Love Is Colder Than Death, I still don’t, but now I do know I’m interested to find out.

Despite the fact that Love Is Colder Than Death is a thoroughly unexceptional film, it at least introduces the elements of his œuvre.  Or, more accurately, what I suppose will be the elements of his œuvre: alienation, oppression, yearning and violence.  In short, everything that makes life great.  Right?  Throw in some sexual tension, some homoerotic undertones, a few unintentionally comic action sequences and a strong attempt at social criticism and we’ve got an ambitious picture on our hands.  I do like it, but Fassbinder’s first attempt comes across primarily as undeveloped.  Love Is Colder Than Death works best when taken more as a collection of unrelated vignettes: Bruno and the woman on the train, Bruno and Franz cruising the streets of Munich and, the crown jewel, Johanna and Bruno shopping (and shoplifting) at the supermarkt.  When the film chases the plot, it’s just another story about three misfits rebelling without a snowball’s chance in hell of getting out alive.

On the plus side, Hanna Schygulla is a pleasure to watch throughout, with or without her blouse.  Humor seeps in through surprising ways: the thrice-fooled attendant at the glasses counter and the secret deal made over pinball, to name two examples.  Also, several of the longer shots, such as the one of the three protagonists ambling down a deserted road, cast visual spells and strike emotional chords at the same time.  In the scene I mentioned in the supermarkt, the camera’s eye follows Johanna and Bruno around the store in one long shot that rises above the plateau the rest of the film exists on.  To me it symbolizes both the sterile infrastructure the three main characters are unwittingly lashing out against as well as the tremendous potential for alienation in the modern world, eloquently conjured by the untold distance between Johanna and Bruno even as they stroll the aisles side by side.  For my money, it’s the highlight of the film.

Other than that, I would consider myself more intrigued than impressed.  It’s easy to see without looking too hard that Fassbinder had the potential for greatness from the beginning.  Word of mouth says he subsequently lived up to it, so I guess that leaves me looking forward to discovering what the world already knows.  If this is what Fassbinder is all about I can see myself getting into it.  I’m alone too.  Maybe we belong together?

bakinakwa’s rating: 3.5 Stars

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