On Laetare Sunday, March 24, 1476 – the day winter is driven out and summer invited in – the drummer Hans Böhm (Michael König) appears in the Franconian town of Niklashausen. He is a shepherd who in the past – on similar occasions – has performed music and songs. On this day, Hans Böhm burns his drum in front of the assembled peasants and talks to them about the revelation he has experienced. He says that the Mother of God appeared to him and instructed him to preach to the people. But soon, the religious speech takes a political turn, and revolutionary social conclusions are drawn from Christian motifs. Hans Böhm claims, that Christ’s Empire should be realized in the here and now, not in the celestial hereafter. Thus, Böhm demands the abolition of sinecures and clerical law. Emperors, the aristocracy, knights and burghers alike are told to give up their privileges and become equals of the ordinary man. Everyone should receive the same pay and all property is supposed to be shared. Initially, Böhm’s sermons were a great success. Thousands of peasants from all over Germany – from Bavaria, Swabia, Hesse, Thuringia and Saxony – came to Niklashausen. Soon, there were more than 30,000 people in the area. But while his support increased, Böhm also had to betray his own mission. Fueled by a numb and inarticulate dissatisfaction, Böhm’s political program was incomprehensible to the peasants. Beneath the weight of an oppressive political situation, they had lost their ability to even imagine better conditions. Thus they were only able to conceive of a change through a miracle. They saw Böhm as a Messiah, not a revolutionary. Böhm was incapable of dealing with the dialectics at play; he was unable to teach Enlightenment to the unenlightened. When the bishop’s soldiers arrested him, the peasants were motionless. They hoped that Böhm would effect a miracle. Böhm had not been able to convey that only personal action will lead to changes. On July 15, 1476, Böhm was burned to death on Würzburg’s place of execution. —Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation
Rainer Werner Fassbinder (May 31, 1945 – June 10, 1982) was born into a cultured bourgeois family in the small Bavarian spa town Bad Wörishofen. Raised by his mother as an only child, the boy had only sporadic contact with his father, a doctor, after the divorce of his parents when he was five. Educated at a Rudolf Steiner elementary school and subsequently in Munich and Augsburg, the city of Bert Brecht, he left school before passing any final examinations. A cinema addict (“five times a week, often three films a day”) from a very early age, not least because his mother needed peace and quiet for her work as a translator, “the cinema was the family life I never had at home.”
Fassbinder made his first short films at the age of twenty, persuading a male lover to finance them in exchange for leading roles. He also applied for a place at the Berlin Film School (dffb), but was refused. He acted in both his early films: DER STADTSTREICHER (The City Tramp), which also featured Irm… read more
Co-directing with Fengler for the second time in a year, Fassbinder experimented with an avante-garde film which compares the political turmoil of feudal Germany with the modern world. While it's possible to admire the ambition of this TV project I'm not so sure it's as easy to enjoy. Not being a fan of overtly political cinema, I found the film to be quite tedious and repetitive as it tried to get its point across..
Uncharacteristically tedious R.W., a non-Aristotelian drama that engenders the Epic Theatre of Brecht, passing through sequences of song and didactism, its reactionary Marxist instructions not aging quite as well as Margit Carstensen. It's alright, Rainer, we know you learned your lesson.