It’s reductive to consider this just a ‘filmed play’ or perhaps that’s just the negative connotation I attach to those words as descriptors, but upon mulling this one over, I’m certain it’s a much better film than it ever would’ve been as a play. Fassbinder’s blocking is absolutely incomparable, watching Petra discuss her first husband with Karin as Marlene types in the background transcends the material; we learn more from Marlene’s hesitation than anything Petra says. His camera choices elevate the separation between Petra and Marlene, but also their togetherness through this separation; Marlene is behind curtains and sheets and in other rooms for much of the action, yet her attention is so closely focused on Petra we are always conscious of her awareness, which shifts the dynamics of every conversation taking place in the film, especially the ones which do not include her.
Heavily reliant on dialogue, Fassbinder is able to keep our interest in this box drama by a threefold approach; making the dialogue both fascinating and informative, insuring the characters are extremely expressive through explosive gestures and quiet paralysis, as well as utilizing a brilliantly decorated set. Petra’s apartment (where all of the action is set) takes on a sinister, ominous presence as the film goes on, through changes of lighting and the exchanging of furniture turning it into Petra’s own private hell; explicitly highlighting Karin’s absence.
Consider the climactic scene where Petra stomps on her teaset while declaring that she can break anything she’s worked for, the scene is almost entirely devoid of furniture, the phone sitting in the foreground as Petra pulls at the lush white carpeting. Karin’s absence is so oppressive it’s uncomfortable, from Petra’s leaping for the phone every time it rings to the emptiness of the room to the silent understanding between Petra’s mother and her friend, Sidonie.
The more I think about this film, the more it might be my favorite Fassbinder. As to why this is in the forum as opposed to just a review, fuck it. Let’s say I want people to argue with me about what their favorite Fassbinder is. So there;
What’s your favorite Fassbinder?