Angst vor der Angst (1975)

16 08 2010

When you make as many movies as Rainer Werner Fassbinder did, you’re going to have a few misses. I think this effort registers as such. It’s not offensively bad or anything (I don’t think Fassbinder was capable of producing a film of such a quality) but it is a far cry from his most emotionally mature and technically advanced works – some of which actually came before this film. Still, this is a nice little film that was probably a lot better than anything else that was made for German television in 1975. It’s melodramatic and over the top in the most painfully obvious way, but it’s almost sort of endearing.

Going off of those descriptions, there is an extremely evident theatrical tilt to the film. In fact, the film is at it’s very best when it is extremely dry. The opening is really unassuming and  perhaps, “unexciting” but that’s what makes the ridiculous events that unfold a bit more bearable. The opening implies a very boring and conventional family story but it so sharply turns into something crazy and silly that I have to give the film some cred in the transgressive category. It’s not really bizarre or anything, but the film turns from a soap opera into a Twilight Zone episode so quickly that the audience never really gets a chance to “fall under the film’s spell” or something to that effect.

Obviously, this is a movie built almost entirely around events, and the people are no more than chess pieces. As mention before, though, it’s when Fassbinder takes pride in the placement of his pieces that the film becomes something interesting. The “ripple effect” thing may have seemed just bad in 1975, but now it seems bad and hokey – something that would be too cumbersome for even a student film. It’s almost embarrassing to watch here but if you’re fond of Fassbinder like I am, all of his movies are automatically interesting in the sense that they all contribute to a different “phase” in his career. He went from minimal, Brecht inspired stuff to dry noirs to naturalistic home dramas to visually striking melodrama to visually boring melodrama and operated everything in between. In other words, he’s the Howard Hawks that Germany never had.



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