This is the story of a talented artist called Rainer Werner Fassbinder who dreams of making movies about the cold-hearted, archaic Federal German society and the longing for respect and love of the outsiders. To achieve this goal the amateur pushes himself into a theatre collective, takes it over, very quickly penetrates the young German movie industry, and becomes its creative engine. Fassbinder's obsessions and chaotic love life influence his work. Fassbinder numbs his desperation by working hard and, more recently, by taking cocaine. He gets even more manic and egotistic but, at the same time, becomes the seismograph of post-war Germany. He still makes big and expensive movies, but also shoots small, private, enthusiastic films. Fassbinder wants to live, preserve the illusions and the creativity, but the journey to death is unstoppable, the self-destruction is complete.

Director's Statement

I felt like [screenwriter] Klaus Richter: the first film I saw, was THE MERCHANT OF FOUR SEASONS, I was 12 at the time, and there was a home cinema in the boarding school that could accommodate about 20 people. This film pierced the heart of my twelve-year-old self like a bullet. From then on, I sat and waited for the next Fassbinder film to be released. And the wait was not long. Almost every six months, new, small, partly bizarre, partly deep films were published, which aimed their distorting mirror at society, the petty-bourgeois, original reactionary, Germans of the early 1970s, which I at 12-, 13-, 14-year-old could then take away deeply impressed by their impact on me. It was a German reality that I had never seen before and that I had never thought about. Fassbinder’s films gave me the tools and the means to do so. As a result, I started my first attempt at writing early on. These films were a great blessing within the deserted film industry of Germany. And when I went to Berlin at 19-years-old, on the hunt of the collapsing modern structures and that legendary Fassbinder, who was still almost a professional youth at the time, he was in his mid-thirties, and I soon went to the places where I could be close to my idol and his stars, Ingrid Caven, Kurt Raab, Volker Spengler and many more, who got drunk in the Paris bar and in the Bermuda Triangle around Savignyplatz and where they celebrated their extravagant parties, and “pressed my nose against the glass” because I didn’t dare to go in at first. I later got to know some of them and had the honour of shooting with them himself. What made Fassbinder and his friends so famous and notorious was the fact that they had managed to mix up the cultural landscape with their poisonous cocktail of most different films, so much so that international fame had already dawned on them. They were a gay group of gamblers, thespians, and part-time actors who achieved this, a colourful bunch that came from everywhere: the deepest Bavarian province to the original stars of the UFA. The big shot amongst them, young Fassbinder, was the only rock star in German cinema at the time as well as to this day, who ultimately only appeared in sunglasses with mirrored glass, completely dressed in leather and a poker face, always flanked by two bodyguards, also dressed in leather. He got away with devastating hotel rooms in Cannes, appointing stars and dropping others and eventually ended up destroying his own life with everyone watching. He brought the eccentricity and the liberation of the gay avant-garde scene into German cinema and into the German cultural scene, even with the many films that had nothing to do with this topic, to symbolise, aestheticise and at the same time update the form. The topics were always new and contemporary with the really good films. His melodrama IN A YEAR WITH THIRTEEN MOONS was unique, it played with poetic and theatrical means and exaggerated them. Fassbinder originally came from the theatre world, and you could tell. He told social parables in as strict a manner as Brecht. MOTHER KUSTERS [GOES TO HEAVEN] is just one example. Fassbinder had the kind of rock and roll in his blood which you can’t buy. He made everyone famous. And fame was important too – to gain fame from an outsider position through ingenuity and to get into the key position of international cinematic attention. Andy Warhol, Jane Fonda, Dirk Bogarde. He searched ever higher, his films became increasingly hermetic and crazier, and he himself progressively broke. He had so much to work through personally and with German society, that a single life, however intense, simply wasn’t enough. The big circus, the limelight, the drugs, the legends he created finally devoured him. For me, he was a comet in the night-sky of Berlin, a bright neon sign fluttering in the wind, a monolith that invented bright colours to stage itself, but which was actually made of the cold, grey bedrock of post-war German society. With all the dark thoughts, the pessimism, the self-doubts that went with it. Every broken hero of his stories who perished himself was a fragment of Fassbinder. And with each of them he died a little more. In the end, he died like real rock and rollers do, burned out with his life in shards and extremely lonely. He burned friendships in the furnace of his productivity and moved on. “Corpses paved” his way. We owe 39 films to him. Everything was there: from the breathtaking melodrama to wonderful evil black comedies to the great social dramas. Every film was different, almost every film a surprise. He was not infallible. It wasn’t his aim to make perfect films. He was too impulsive for that, ultimately too emotional. He had to put life in order to make these real-life films. That was the crux. He had no retreat where he could have crawled like the others. Art and life were completely intertwined. He was a very young man with great wisdom and humour. He was the unique, the formative among German film directors and authors. Everything for art and living as if there was no tomorrow. Living by this motto means not getting old. Fassbinder was spared the hassle of being a veteran, just repeating himself and doing boring stuff. He died at the height of his creative glory - at the age of 37.

Director's Biography

Born in 1959, Oskar Roehler is a German film director, screenwriter and journalist. He was born in Starnberg as the son of writers Gisela Elsner and Klaus Roehler. Since the mid-1980s he has been working as a screenwriter, for, among others, Niklaus Schilling, Christoph Schlingensief and Mark Schlichter. Since the early 1990s he has also been working as a film director. For his film NO PLACE TO GO, a very personal portrait of his mother, which premiered in Cannes (Director’s Fortnight), he received the German Film Award (Lola) for best film. His 2010 film JEW SUSS: RISE AND FALL Oskar created one of his most polarising films and was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival.

2009 LULU & JIMI
2002 ANGST

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Oskar Roehler

Written by: Klaus Richter

Produced by: Markus Zimmer, Stefan Arndt, Uwe Schott

Cinematography: Carl-Friedrich Koschnick

Editing: Hansjörg Weissbrich

Production Design: Oskar Roehler

Costume Design: Peri de Braganca

Make-Up & Hair: Ursula Röling

Original Score: Martin Todsharow

Sound: Andreas Wölki

Casting: Uwe Bünker, Antje Bünker

Cast: Oliver Masucci (Rainer Werner Fassbinder), Katja Riemann (Gudrun), Hary Prinz (Kurt), Erdal Yildiz (Salem), Eva Mattes (Brigitte Mira), Isolde Barth (Rainer's Mother), Anton Rattinger (Britta)

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2020