Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Fear of Fear|
Actors: Margit Carstensen, Ulrich Faulhaber, Brigitte Mira, Irm Hermann, Armin Meier
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
If not among the better-known films by the gifted German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Fear of Fear is nevertheless an absolutely characteristic work. A housewife, locked into a dull life with her distracted husband a... more »
Powerful, vividly-designed psychological drama
J. Clark | metro New York City | 08/22/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although rarely seen since its premiere on German television in 1975, Fear of Fear is a powerful, vividly-designed psychological drama about a housewife fighting her descent into madness. Margit Carstensen, one of Fassbinder's greatest divas (title roles in Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant; Martha), gives a spellbinding, richly-nuanced performance in the lead. In fact, every aspect of the film is inspired, and it deserves a prominent place in Fassbinder's filmography; Wellspring's DVD has very good image and sound quality.Although Fear of Fear brings to mind the plays of Strindberg (Fassbinder had recently staged Miss Julie), and the films of such disparate directors as Douglas Sirk (his great 50s melodramas, like All That Heaven Allows) and Ingmar Bergman (his psychologically complex films like Persona), this is pure Fassbinder. It is one of his dramatically clearest yet most emotionally, even politically, ambiguous pictures. As a "case study" focused on one character, it bears comparison to The Merchant of Four Seasons; while in its dissection of the social pressures which bear on the individual, it is comparable to Effi Briest. Yet in its compassion, it looks back to the film Fassbinder had just finished, Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven. What sets Fear of Fear apart from those other extraordinary works is that he goes even further in internalizing the depiction of his protagonist, to the extent that the design, not to mention all of the subjective shots, reflect Margot's singular point of view.Part of the film's power comes from the paradox that, while Fassbinder focuses with laserlike intensity on one woman, he simultaneously suggests a wealth of resonances which can be interpreted - by those who are so inclined - as allegorical (Margot as "everywoman"), or even existential (the particularity of one individual in an unknowable universe, vividly dramatized through image and sound). Always political, Fassbinder also makes the film suggest, without any ideological sledgehammering, the complex interplay of the individual, family, and society. Philosophy and politics aside, the film has a gripping immediacy; and I could feel the truth in it, as it brought to mind a friend who has endured experiences akin to Margot's.This "little" film achieves so much because of Fassbinder's mastery of both drama and visual/aural style. Its momentum comes not only from its sharp focus on Margot, but from Fassbinder's taut and elliptical screenplay, which omits several traditionally expected scenes (although I never found it confusing). Some people may find the characters surrounding Margot to be underdeveloped. But this is a highly subjective film, relentlessly focused on her, and that is how she perceives them. The shallow visual field is so effective because it reflects Margot's perceptions; it helps us feel what she feels about her surroundings. He also makes extensive use of mirrors (as in Effi Briest and Chinese Roulette). Margot's image is duplicated, and reduplicated; but ironically seeing her from so many different angles does not give us - or her - any more insight into her fractured nature. Even more visceral is Fassbinder's motif of fragmented people, showing them literally, and metaphorically, cut off. The narrow hallways and doors block characters from each other and, by implication, themselves. Fassbinder is especially deft at using this device to develop, through purely visual means, the enigmatic - and poignant - character of Bibi, Margot's young, often silent, daughter.The final section of the film, beginning when Margot enters a mental hospital, feels a bit rushed. But it also introduces the fascinating theme of Margot's connection with other women, for the first time in the film, including a caring psychiatrist and, more ambiguously, another mental patient. Although some people see the final scene as Margot's return to madness, there could also be a tentatively hopeful interpretation. Not only have we seen Margot's progress at the hospital, but the sinister Mr. Bauer (Kurt Raab) who stalks her throughout the film (he functions as her doppelganger) is gone for good. Also, and I know this is a stretch, her surname Staudte is similar to the German Staude, the word for a perennial plant - which dies down in winter but, a few months later, springs back to life. Maybe, just maybe, with her recent developments, Margot can leave fear behind and begin her personal reintegration."
Stalwart Kreinblaster | Xanadu | 09/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of Fassbinder's most finely crafted films. The illness of the protagonist (Margit Carstenson) leads to just as many questions about the people around her as it does to herself. Thus, this is a statement about society at large and not just a personal portrait. Fassbinder, I have read, was greatly fascinated with Freudian psychology - and some of this passion we can see in the structure of his films.
This is a middle-period Fassbinder film - but one which, while embracing a similar theme to 'Martha', I think is very forward looking.
I admire this film - and agree with Vincent Canby (New York Times) when he calls Fassbinder a major artist."