Yesterday I went back to Barnes & Noble and picked up some more gems from the Criterion Collection sale. One of those gems happened to be something I have put off purchasing for a long time. I am talking about Rainer Werner Fassbinders Berlin Alexanderplatz. I was putting this off for so long because I love Fassbinder and whenever I start watching something of his I cannot stop. You may ask why is that a problem? Berlin Alexanderplatz is essentially thirteen films at fifteen and a half hours (making it the longest running time for a film in history).
For those of you who do not know who Fassbinder is, he was arguably one of the greatest if not the greatest filmmaker of the past century. He completed forty four projects in eighteen years and died at the age of thirty seven. With films like The Marriage of Maria Braun (one of my all time favorite films), Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, and massive television films (such as World on a Wire and Berlin Alexanderplatz) Fassbinder showed legitimate depth and understanding of the social, political, and personal aspects of his people. He grew up with German guilt that he was born with along with an entire generation that never deserved it, because they were not even alive during the war.
I am currently two episodes in to the film, which puts me at two and a half hours and a basic understanding of what is going on. The main character is Franz Biberkopf, a man who is just released from jail after serving four years for beating his girlfriend to death. He is no hero nor an anti-hero. This is a character that is extremely complex with no real rhyme or reason, and is supposed to be studied and perhaps admired for his complexity? At the same time he seems like an absolute moron. He has his moments of genius and his moments of stupidity and might just be a caricature of what the average German man was like in Weimar era Germany before the rule of the Nazis.