Enfant Terrible

Not too many of you out there other than serious film fans and those who are familiar with New Wave cinema will be familiar with the name Rainer Werner Fassbinder. This despite the fact that in that genre he is rather iconic. A talented and mercurial filmmaker. Who made wild, strange films which matched his own life.

A charismatic, if not slightly unhinged, man, Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a German filmmaker. An extremely talented one who made his name as one of the bright lights of the German New Wave film movement. Over the course of his career he made many a film which looked at the cold and out of sync with the rest of the world federal German society. There was a tinge of bittersweetness to all of his films, through which he sought respect and love from people on the fringes of society. Over the course of his career his status rose amongst cinephiles of being thought of as one of the most important directors working in Europe at the time. His flame burned bright, but, as is often the case, for too short a time as his mental and physical health failed and Rainer died at the young age of 37.

The tough task of realistically bringing to life the often misunderstood filmmaker’s life was undertaken by another respected German filmmaker. Oskar Roehler (No Place to Go, Agnes and his Brothers) has attempted in a rather artistic way to depict a portion of Fassbinder’s life. It is an ambitious film. One which depicts the creative man as having a hair trigger temper, being emotional, self destructive, stubborn, flamboyant, and a devotee of film making.

Here we learn that Fassbinder, wildly brought to life by Oliver Masucci, was not a fun man to be around. His behaviour on set and off was unpredictable due to his wild mood swings and over drinking of alcohol. We don’t get to see what inspired him as a filmmaker, but we do get a window into his passion for making movies.

Just like his films, Roehler’s biopic is rather stylized and full of wild visuals. You are not going to learn a ton about the man if you are already familiar with his story. No big revelations here, but it is entertaining. We loosely follow his career from age of 22 until his death at 37. During the short 15 years of his career he managed to cram in the making of 39 films. Astonishing! That goes a long way towards indicating his level of passion and probably how unstable he was. Also, that path is littered with former lovers and film collaborators who were trampled over by the man. Despite all this poor behaviour, those in his life loved him. Were devoted to him and his crazy vision.

Masucci is amazing here. It is truly a showpiece of a role and he owns it. Filling Fassbinder with ire, horniness, instability, temper, and not very likable. We see all of the man – the good, the bad and the ugly. His random sex, abuse of his actors, drug use and drinking, and misadventures in love.

This film premiered at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, which seems like the perfect place for a film about Rainer Werner Fassbinder to make its debut.

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