With the rise of New German Cinema after the Oberhausen Manifesto in 1962, several young directors collectively thumbed their noses at the “traditional” German films produced by the Ministry of the Interior. Rainer Fassbinder, along with other influential directors including Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog and Volker Schlndorff, boldly declared “Opas Kino ist tot” – Papa’s cinema is dead.
The last films in the George Eastman House’s Fassbinder series are some of his greatest works -“Chinese Roulette” on Oct. 15, “Veronika Voss” on Oct. 22 and “The Marriage of Maria Braun” on Oct. 29.
The earliest of these three films – the 1976 release “Chinese Roulette” – features a strikingly subtle interplay of tension and emotion.
The plot revolves around a married couple who cheat on each other, only to find that their disabled daughter has conspired to have them encounter each other at the family’s country estate.
The scene in which the pairs of lovers meet simply exudes a sense of tension and awkwardness. The sheer magnitude of suspense and tension in this scene alone makes the film worth watching, and holds the audience’s attention far longer than any horror film ever could.
The game of “Chinese Roulette” – a question and answer truth game – slowly and methodically erupts into violence with a fatal result.
“Veronika Voss,” based on the real life of Third Reich actress Sybille Schmitz, finishes his Bundesrepublik Deutschland trilogy of films dealing with the social and emotional aftermath of being a German after the fall of the Third Reich.
This film, like the bulk of Fassbinder’s work, challenges the viewer to become deeply involved in the psychological wrinkles of its characters. Rosel Zech gives her best performance here in the role of Voss, drifting between the reality of her fall from fame and the drug-induced manic fits as a result of a doctor’s plan to gain wealth from Voss’ will in the period of German economic revival.
Although he was greatly influenced by the American movies of the time, Fassbinder, unlike most Hollywood directors, takes advantage of the spectator, saying more in a shot than some movies say in two hours, as he does in “The Marriage of Maria Braun.”
“The American method of making [films] left the audience with emotions and nothing else,” Fassbinder said in a 1977 interview. “I want to give the spectator the emotions along with the possibility of reflecting on and analyzing what he is feeling.”
The film series is sponsored by UR’s Program in Visual and Cultural Studies and the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures. The first 200 UR students will see the films for free.
Schnee can be reached at email@example.com.