Beautiful. But as I was watching, I kept thinking that Fassbinder himself was in an abusive relationship with Irm Hermann, the actress who played Marlene, and the disparity between artistic criticism of the movie and utter dismissal of humanity in real life, kept bothering me :(
About face. A glorious, if waxy, slow-burn study of self-construction into destruction with the cracking of veneers, postures and conceits caught at the point of implosion. A glance or an arched eye brow say much - Marlene's silence says more - human mannequins indeed. I'm not sure what it accurately says about womanhood but it certainly has an addled drag bar aesthetic that both invites and repels interest.
Like a perverse, or more realistic, take on Bjork’s Oh So Quiet, where each woman has her recurring drama to reenact - until it’s over. (And then…) The erotic thrill - sometimes compulsion - of submitting to one’s most basal, tautly tensioned relationships w/ power, in this Nietzchean way where it’s what animates us; distinguishes us from those dolls & mannequins... Style: Campy, Sirk-inspired Vanity Fair spread. 4.5
Fassbinder throws melodrama through the looking glass, dragging every bilious contradiction of lopsided love affairs into a microcosm that's as enclosed and articulate as a great stage play and as visually inventive as great cinema. The film alternates between human and cruel, flaunting its acid tongue and searching for peace. Its glorious ending is either Fassbinder's sickest joke or a cause for hope. Possibly both.
A rare example of a film where extreme theatricality is its strength. Restricted to the single setting, Fassbinder and Ballhaus are able to compose every aspect of each frame to devastating effect. The mise en scene wraps you up inside its strange world of sensuality, sadomasochism and performativity, while the film itself is an incredibly rich text for the exploration of power, sexuality and emotional dependence.
A world and characters constantly in flux and in motion. Ballhaus' camera is always moving, revealing new details about a room (and consequently, the characters) that is simultaneously vast and enclosed. Extreme artifice has been built up just for it to gradually collapse, and this cast of fabulous women wearing fabulous clothes perfectly encapsulates the contradictions of this constructed, yet emotionally raw world.
Fassbinder proves once more to know women deeply and the cinematography of Ballhaus is like a magnifying glass over the details that build up to the women, the mannequins and the theatrical settings becoming a seamless unity. The storytelling technique employed is remarkable in the way it tells itself through the narration by images of Marlene, who does not speak one word for the entire duration of the film. Superb.
Fassbinder explores karma, hypocrisy, love, obsession, motherhood, ego, art, fashion, sex, domination and submission all in a single room. Love is pain, expertly captured as beautiful, warm - oozing with colour and texture, dipping in and out of the shadows and merging human forms. The final shot, particularly spotlighting the gun, is a nice engimatic flare added to the strange, internal universe created.
Not my favourite so far, from my limited exposure to Rainer Werner Fassbinder, but still good enough for me to suspect that this film-maker has gathered such a strong, loyal following because he rarely puts a foot wrong. Strong performances help, and the single location isn't a hindrance either, considering the behaviour of the main character (a superb Margit Carstensen).
Hedonistic and personal, depicting a manner in which he also lived and loved, this is Fassbinder recounting his demons, excesses, indulgence and an extravagant sexuality through exquisite, opulent mise en scène. Emotions know no restrains in this theater of histrionic and unadulterated passions where Fassbinder seems to exorcise himself, indulge in forbidden fruits, posing languidly in decadent fashion.