Saturday, 1 May 2010


Shot in the hilariously dispassionate, nouvelle vague-inspired manner common to his earliest films, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Gods Of The Plague follows small-time crook Franz as he attempts to reassimilate himself into society. His first priority is to meet with his loved ones again, although the word ‘loved’ here is purely functional. Girlfriend Johanna, a sultry chanteuse, shares an unexpressed joy to be reunited with him again. Her relief is short-lived however, as Franz suddenly falls for an enigmatic woman named Margarethe. The new couple’s dalliances reveal why Franz had grown tired of Johanna, as Margarethe’s apparent moral indifference allows him to return to his life of crime. When he and friend Gorilla are implicated in the murder of his brother, the police turn to Johanna, who has the power to choose how much information to give away about her unfaithful lover.

Gods Of The Plague is an interesting point in Fassbinder’s career, demonstrating a balance between sarcastic parody and hysterical melodrama. The opening credits, putting every cast and crew member in one long scrolling marquee at the bottom of the screen, presages the deliberate listlessness of this would-be gangster flick. A trilingual poker scene featuring a group of effeminate players, including Fassbinder himself, predicts the director’s overt flamboyance in later films. It might not be a particularly great film by any standards beyond its adventurous photography, but Gods Of The Plague has a naïve campness to be treasured, and as such stands out as one of Fassbinder’s more endearing features.

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