Sunday, 13 December 2009


Shot on a low budget in little over a week, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s second feature describes the exploits of a group of young, happy-go-lucky people living in a Münich apartment block. The group apparently spends much of their time smoking, drinking and sleeping with each other, forging a strong collective identity of hedonism. But when Jorgos, a Greek gastarbeiter, moves into the building and begins an affair with the fickle Marie, the group unwittingly unites on a different front – one of prejudice. The residents speak unkindly of Jorgos, but it soon becomes clear that they are jealous of his apparent emotional intelligence and lack of baggage.

The film takes its plot from Fassbinder’s own play, and this is deftly echoed by the flat camera angles. The film often returns to a shot of the residents sat on the railings outside the building, speaking but not conversing. Group dynamic works exceptionally well, as none of the characters openly express much affection towards each other – eye contact is rare, put-downs are frequent, hugs and kisses are laughably insincere. As with Fassbinder’s first film Love Is Colder Than Death, the characters act as if they had all been forced into this friendship out of convenience, and this is the film’s virtue. Jorgos thus becomes a very strong protagonist by mere dint of his apparent neutrality, although he is potentially as dull as the rest of the group. Dryly sarcastic and unyielding, Katzelmacher is a brilliant introduction to the beautifully cruel world of Fassbinder.

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