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The American Soldier, Rainer Werner Fassbinder

By Richard Jonathan

T is for tenderness, a damask rose in dung; a flower that’s emphemeral, yet more real than love.

H is for history, the nightmare from which RWF awoke: only to plunge back into with open eyes.

E is for exhaustion, exhaustion in the quest for redemption: 42 films in 17 years; dead at 37.

Karl Scheydt as Ricky, Ingrid Caven as the singer

Irm Hermann as a whore

A is for antiteater: a community and its discontents, creativity from chaos.

M is for music: Ingrid Caven and Peer Raben: poetry from pastiche, sincerity from tongue-in-cheek.

E is for ensemble: Hannah Schygulla, Ulli Lommel, Margit Carstensen, Kurt Raab and all the others: touched by grace, the time, the place, and the inspiration of he who fashioned a cosmos out of hot and cold breath.

R is for Ricky, the hero who can’t tell the difference between love and violence.

I is for ‘I only want you to love me’: naked need clothed in celluloid.

C is for cinema, for the way RWF mastered the static in the kinetic, and so forged a style.

A is for articulate, the self-reflexive artist whose ordered intelligence contrasts with the chaos of his emotions.

N is for nine: the nine lives of the alley cat who lived in a wolf pack.

S is for SM: the head to the tail of solitude.

O is for obsession: the closed circle, the hothouse breeding pleasure and pain: in the end, only the works remain.

L is for love: love, colder than death.

D is for desire: the light that lives in darkness, the darkness that abides in light.

I is for inexhaustible, the inexhaustible need for love in this filmic universe.

E  is for emotion: the heart stylized on the sleeve.

R is for reading: a life-saving passion. Theodor Fontane, Alfred Döblin, Heinrich von Kleist.

Margarethe von Trotta as the chambermaid

Our Love
Lyrics by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, music by Peer Raben | Antiteater, Günther Kaufmann

Our love has died my friend
Our love has now an end
I was in the storm my friend
And hope was born again

So much tenderness is in my head
So much loneliness is in my bed
So much tenderness over the world

Thirteen days in the lower land
No chance for hand-in-hand
Life and sea are blue
Your words are never true

So much tenderness is in my head
So much loneliness is in my bed
So much tenderness over the world

No more a loving in my heart
With my desire so far
No feeling for the time
The change for me’s unplanned

So much tenderness is in my head
So much loneliness is in my bed
So much tenderness over the world

Screenshots from the film, Life Stories: A Conversation with Rainer Werner Fassbinder by Peter Jansen, 1978 (on the DVD RWF: The BRD Trilogy, Supplements. The Criterion Collection, 2003)



Possession, Zulawski

Last Tango in Paris, Bertolucci

Maman / Putain, Eustache

Realm of the Senses, Oshima

Teorema, Pasolini

Cul de Sac, Polanski

The Passenger, Antonioni

Damnation, Bela Tarr

Element of Crime, Lars von Trier

American Soldier, Fassbinder