Thursday, 25 November 2010


The first of Fassbinder’s films to receive significant critical attention, Pioneers In Ingolstadt concerns the construction of a bridge in a German village, spearheaded by a select group of soldiers. Our protagonist of sorts – the story jumps between various characters – is Berta, a reserved young woman who falls almost instantly for a soldier named Karl. Unlike her vampish friend Alma, Berta struggles with sexuality, and her romantic manner jars with Karl’s impatience. Alma, on the other hand, is content to manipulate the men to feed her desires, and by her own assertions is ‘well-liked’ by the visiting soldiers. Before long, the task at hand is forgotten in a long weekend of debauchery.

The film is an adaptation of a play by Marieluise Fleißer, and carries much of the expected theatricality in its mise-en-scène. Fassbinder’s angle on the play is led by gender stereotypes, and he uses his burgeoning film style to experiment with these conventions. The soldiers’ presence in the town is seen as intrusive, almost unwanted, but charged with erotic potential. Men are simultaneously portrayed as heroes and beasts, lycanthropes whose desires get the better of them at night, while the women’s envy is borderline Freudian. The bridge, too short to necessitate much attention, provides a symbol for the relation between the military and small-town Germany, while another motif, a moonlit park bench, provides a setting for various dalliances, sexual and romantic. It might not be a classic, but Pioneers In Ingolstadt is vital viewing for the Fassbinder fanatic.

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