Berlin Alexanderplatz Screen 14 articles

Berlin Alexanderplatz

1980

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  • For its first 13 episodes, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s adaptation of Alfred Döblin’s 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz is most decidedly a masterpiece... In conception, the film’s two-hour epilogue is ingenious, a descent into absolute hysteria and madness wherein Biberkopf wanders through a politically and spiritually charged psychosexual dreamscape... Yet the experience of watching this intentionally incongruous coda is excruciating...

  • There is far more to appreciate about Rainer Werner Fassbinder's magnum opus than the sheer undertaking of it all, even if its quality wavers throughout, rising and sinking like the tides, some of its moments among the best in cinema and others decidedly more trying.

  • For all its cruelties and brutalities, Fassbinder's cinema is heartbreakingly beautiful. The first meeting of Franz Biberkopf and Mieze (Barbara Sukowa) is worthy of Wagner's most soulful musical intimations of innocence regained. Indeed, all the characters are ennobled by the unyielding compassion of Fassbinder's mise-en-scène.

  • The epilogue, a Syberbergian phantasmagoria that did nothing for me, disposes perfunctorily of all the plot elements left unresolved at the end of episode thirteen. But the experience of living through a film this expansive is much more important than the story's final destination. I am now convinced that everyone should see at least one fifteen-hour film, and Berlin Alexanderplatz is the strongest candidate for that position.

  • Although the total length is formidable, the individual segments are tightly constructed and the overall look is beautiful. Shot in muted colors through occasionally visible gauze, the muted interiors sometimes lit up by a neon wash, Berlin Alexanderplatz is often reminiscent of old Hollywood at its most extreme.

  • Fassbinder discards the mannerism of his late films in favor of a noble simplicity, concentrating on a single point of view as it operates across a wide range of experiences and environments. All of the usual distancing effects drop out, leaving the wrenching spectacle of one man grappling with his life in perfect candor.

  • Aided by great design, cinematography, and, not least, performances, Fassbinder tells the story surprisingly naturalistically. Then in the epilogue, he offers a disturbing meditation on his own fantasies about Biberkopf. This phantasmagoria is Fassbinder's most daring act of self-exposure: a movie time-bomb that forces you to rethink the series as a whole.

  • An obvious subject one might say, but given its length and director’s incredible incisive understanding of its themes (the book was Fassbinder’s lifelong inspiration, the epilogue is an astounding personal meditation on his feelings about the protagonist), it is in Tony Rayns’ words “the work of a genuine master with nothing left to lose or hide”.

  • How does anyone begin to encapsulate the audacious, manic, insightful, resonant, humane, and allegorically loaded tone of the epic work - the quintessential "anarchy of the imagination" - that is Rainer Werner Fassbinder's adaptation of Alfred Döblin's thirteen chapter, Weimer Republic-era German Expressionist novel Berlin Alexanderplatz?

  • A visual, conceptual, and emotional megaquarry, a sometimes unfocused, often even chaotic, but also constantly fascinating excess consisting of violence, passion, contempt, desire, and, yes, somehow also love, a film in which people scream, laugh, cry, and screw outrageously and which never entirely comes together as a whole, never wants to come together, a film that has no desire at all to be packed away into a well-formulated crate in order to sit on the shelf as a key work, deciphered or not.

  • Even without a 15-plus-hour miniseries on his résumé, maverick German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder would have been renowned for the fruitfulness of his relatively brief career. But with Berlin Alexanderplatz, Fassbinder pulled off a remarkable act of sustained directorial stamina and vision, made all the more impressive by how it explodes many of the accepted notions about epic filmmaking while remaining utterly hypnotic.

  • Taken as a whole, Fassbinder’s magnum opus is not an alternate reality so much as a near-endless mildewy-bell-jar briefing for a descent into Hell, in an already hellish Weimar Germany, where women are bawling trash, men are lurking hyenas, and the world is a combustion engine run on souls. It’s meant to express a psychological inferno, and it succeeds.

  • Its very ease of access establishes it as a fixture of a common cinematic heritage rather than a wondrous strange disruption of it. Such, of course, is the fate of all pathbreaking works; whether founding a genre or dissolving one (as per the Benjaminian definition), they will always stand as unmistakable and ineradicable landmarks. What’s interesting about Alexanderplatz, however, is how well its particular brand of extreme long form cinema fits with our familiar means of dramatic apprehension.

  • Fassbinder and his character believed they could fool life’s miserable design, and they all suffer mightily for their hubris, no matter how innocent they remain. Berlin Alexanderplatz, like the structure that gives this intimate, earnest tragedy its name, is mighty, towering, but its pleasures and pains are always easily understood. This unmissable gentle giant gave us Fassbinder’s strengths and weaknesses in the most beautiful, heart-rending form they ever took.

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