In a Year with 13 Moons Screen 98 of 13 reviews

In a Year with 13 Moons

1978

In a Year with 13 Moons Poster
  • Fassbinder’s customarily direct, profound filmmaking—which extends from the dialogue to the set design—provides a way in. It’s difficult to make generalizations about that directness beyond saying it’s earnest. Here, the narrative feels like a transposed torch song, something along the lines of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.”

  • Playing one of cinema's first transgender leading ladies, Volker Spengler gives a performance for the ages. In a Year with 13 Moons is a movie that screams, cries, bleeds, and rages against the cruelty of life and the failures of love.

  • Longing pervades the film, be it in Elvira’s unrequited love for a callous man or nuns’ thwarted maternal instincts, and rarely has Fassbinder’s reflective imagery felt so confining and stupefying. The dense, contradictory identity politics elude simple classification, but Elvira needs only one sentence to justify herself, and the filmmaker who dreamed her: “I had to exist.”

  • The frankly amazing In a Year of Thirteen Moons is an undoubtedly despairing experience, but in the way of great art it feels elating. Its nobly suffering transsexual hero, Elvira (Volker Spengler), wanders through a barren, unforgiving Frankfurt, a ghost in her own narrative.

  • Fassbinder has Elvira revisit the stages of her life... with raucous humor and hysterical melodrama, and Volker Spengler throws himself into the role with heartbreaking abandon. The identity conflict at the film’s center is also Germany’s own: in Fassbinder’s portrait of the gleamingly rebuilt Frankfurt as an emotionally devastated wasteland, Fascism—the need of some to dominate and of others to endure—comes off as a woeful constant of the heart.

  • Structurally radical and emotionally operatic, the film links several bravura setpieces... At once melodramatic and coolly distant, wrenching and clinical, Fassbinder's character study never telegraphs the "right" way to respond to it, which leaves viewers with plenty to sort out afterwards.

  • A distilled, brutal, unrelenting, deeply personal, and emotionally honest exposition into the human existential quest for love, acceptance, spiritual passion, and inclusion.

  • You can see Fassbinder sorting through the guilt and grief he suffered after Meier’s death throughout the film, which makes Elvira’s humiliations and bizarre rituals of atonement that much more difficult to watch. Fassbinder wasn’t a religious man, but In a Year of 13 Moons feels not unlike a series of bibilical encounters between the Christ-like Elvira and the film’s other cripples as she spirals knowingly to her inevitable doom.

  • This film combines irony with a great deal of heartfelt feeling... The strange lighting effects and often fragmented and dark compositions place this among Fassbinder’s most experimental films and one of his most harsh and sincere investigations of minority urban life... Elvira’s brutally honest tape-recorded interview in the final moments combines with the image for one of Fassbinder’s most moving and penetrating moments in one of his best films.

  • Fassbinder breaks all the conventional rules in treating this sordid subject matter. As already noted, the decision to use an elliptical exposition with such a central character is bizarre; ellipsis is ordinarily used to create a mystery out of something that is basically normal or comprehensible to an audience. And, far from being comprehensible, Elvira is ever more extreme and problematic than I've made her sound.

  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder's distant, episodic study of the sad, turgid last days of an unhappy transsexual. There's none of the allegorical cushioning he provided in The Marriage of Maria Braun... The subject invites easy compassion and pity, but Fassbinder's icy camera style keeps us at arm's length, calling up a much more complex response.

  • Only Fassbinder could make a film about a tormented and humiliated transsexual more lyrical than clinical. Volker Spengler as Elvira, recipient of a sex-change operation he/she has come to regret, tries to salvage a life that seems hopelessly lost as soon as its bizarre conditions are described. But the character strikes deep chords of feeling during the process of disintegration. The "plot" becomes more outrageous with each encounter, and yet Fassbinder never loses his balance or his audacity.

  • The overwhelming sadness of Elvira’s journey might be among the most tragic in Fassbinder’s work because she means no one any harm. While many of the director’s protagonists are brutal and callous and yearn for power and control, Elvira wants kindness and love. The world, however, leads the gentle to the slaughterhouse, and as Elvira sees it, that might be an act of mercy.

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