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Love is Colder Than Death
Love is Colder Than Death
Actors: Peter Berling, Rudolf Waldemar Brem, Howard Gaines, Hannes Gromball, Thomas Hill
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2003     1hr 28min

The first feature in the frantic career of Rainer Werner Fassbinder is, like Godard's debut Breathless, a nod to the traditional gangster movie. This time, however, the tough-guy attitudes are imparted to a trio of typical...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Peter Berling, Rudolf Waldemar Brem, Howard Gaines, Hannes Gromball, Thomas Hill
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Romantic Comedies, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Fox Lorber
Format: DVD - Black and White,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 06/10/2003
Theatrical Release Date: 05/27/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 28min
Screens: Black and White,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: German
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Fassbinder's prodigious debut film
J. Clark | metro New York City | 08/22/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is Fassbinder's prodigious debut film, a revisionist film noir of stark visual style, seething but repressed emotions, and sardonic humor. Even as it draws on his extensive work in theatre, Love is Colder Than Death (1969) points to the 40 incredibly diverse films to come, in several of its themes, stylistic techniques, and psychological insights. But this is no mere warm-up for later triumphs (and tribulations); it seems more resonant with each subsequent viewing.It opens at a crime syndicate, where - in between brutal interviews with the bosses - small-time Munich pimp Franz Walsch (played by Fassbinder) strikes up a friendship with Bruno (Ulli Lommel), another recruit. Relishing his independence, Franz refuses to join the mob. He returns to his prostitute girlfriend Joanna (Hanna Schygulla, one of Fassbinder's greatest actresses). Bruno tracks Franz down for enigmatic reasons: Is it because he already feels drawn to Franz (their unexpressed homoerotic bond is key to the film), or has he been sent by the syndicate - or both? The three go on a small wave of shoplifting and murder. But when Bruno begins planning a bank robbery, Joanna's distrust and jealousy of him cause her to make some arrangements of her own.Shot in harsh black and white by cinematographer Dietrich Lohmann, Fassbinder designed this film (with Lommel) and edited it, using his frequent pseudonym of none other than Franz Walsch. From the first scene, he establishes the tense visual style (characters trapped by large expanses of blank wall), deliberate pacing, and almost hypnotic performances. These elements work perfectly to express this almost uncanny vision of a world of repressed longing, frustration and, inevitably, violence.About this picture Fassbinder once said, in a comment which also looks ahead to his later works, "My film isn't supposed to let feelings people already have be neutralized or soaked up; instead, the film should create new feelings.... I'm concerned with having the audience ... examine its own innermost feelings." And he does. For instance, he infuses even simple elements with many thematic and emotional layers, making them complex, even contradictory, yet almost always involving. Take the plot, which I summarized above. On the one hand, it could hardly be more simple. Yet although it is classically constructed (exposition, rising action, climax), it holds many genuine, and purposeful, mysteries of character, not only for the three leads, but minor roles too.And in terms of cinema history, Fassbinder turns the crime film on its ear. Although he created a visually stunning "traditional" film noir in Gods of the Plague (the sequel to this film), here he eschews all familiar stylistic cues. Instead of ominous shadows, everything is hit with icy-cold light; there is nowhere to hide. Instead of the baroque, sometimes dizzying, design of such 1950s masterpieces as Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly and Welles's Touch of Evil, Fassbinder puts us in a world of intense flatness, with rarely more than two or three planes of action. Ironically, the only places with depth of space are the centers of consumerism - the department store and supermarket - which hilariously provide no impediments to the trio pilfering everything they want.But most of the film's space is of crushing blankness, from the sequence of Bruno's night drive along Munich's creepy, almost-deserted streets (accompanied only by Peer Raben's haunting score) to, especially, Franz's oppresively bare apartment, where much of the film is set. Fassbinder here brilliantly (and economically, since he had only a US $27,500 budget) uses this visual blankness to convey not only his characters' social status, but their emotional states too. In a strange yet brilliantly insightful way, all of those bare walls - echoing the characters' emptiness and pain - made me care about them even more. I deeply responded to their vulnerability, which was unique for each character yet also a common quality. Though they never talk about their frustrated desires and dreams - and of course that silence adds to the film's power - we see that these are terribly wounded people, with no idea of how to heal themselves. So they act out through robbing and killing - using generic criminal identities provided by Hollywood - even as these victims of society victimize each other, and of course themselves. Fassbinder does not excuse these characters, but he does bring them to life.I think this film succeeds not only sociologically but artistically, capturing - through narrative, performance, and design - the blank poetry of oppression, and repression. Of course, with his debut Fassbinder also wanted to astonish the world; so he must have been delighted with the near-riot this film caused at the 1969 Berlin Film Festival. Today it still feels fresh, strange, and resonant in its chillingly casual violence and unspoken, sometimes heartbreaking, passion."
Individuality against crowd!
Hiram Gomez Pardo | Valencia, Venezuela | 10/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Franz is a man with penal antecedents for overtaking and and go-between . He refuses to enlist to a crime syndicate because prefers acting by himself. He lives with Joanna a naïf prostitute who expects living with a bourgeois home . Bruno - the chief of the syndicate- will live with them and eventually will try to convince Franz to join with them . After several overtakes , the day comes ; Joanna calls the police and finally Bruno dies and Joanna and Franz will escape .
This Op. 1 of Fassbinder is a clear tribute to the film noir . In this film Fassbinder seems to emphasize the individuality above all the honor codes established previously in the mob . We are in the seventies and the things change with all the implications which this decision involves.
There are certain edition problems in the film (Remember Fassbinder is just twenty three years old) but the script is very incisive and direct .
Fassbinder's First Film Reveals a Genius at Age 23.
G. Merritt | Boulder, CO | 01/10/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"At the age of 23, Fassbinder made his first of more than forty feature-length films in just a fifteen year period, Love is Colder than Death (Liebe ist kälter als der Tod) (1969). He dedicated the film to his film mentors: Claude Chabrol, Éric Rohmer, and Jean-Marie Straub. With obvious Jean Luc Godard nouvelle-vague influences, Fassbinder's film noir gangster film stars Ulli Lommel, Fassbinder, and Hanna Schygulla. Fassbinder plays Franz Biberkopf, a small-time pimp with the same name as the main character in his later, 16-hour masterpiece, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980). Franz Biberkopf is also the name of the main character in Fassbinder's Fox and His Friends (1974). The film basically tells the unusual story of Franz's friend, Bruno (Ulli Lommel), who has been ordered to kill Franz. Hanna Schygulla plays Franz's love interest, Joanna. While Fassbinder obviously shot this black-and-white film on a small budget, the aesthetic payoff was big. It not only suggests the genius of Fassbinder's films soon to come, but it also established what was to become a recurring theme in each of his later films (that Love is Colder Than Death), undoubtedly a truth he derived from his own life experiences in the world. Quintessential Fassbinder.

G. Merritt"
5 stars for the fassbinder film buff - 4 stars for general a
Stalwart Kreinblaster | Xanadu | 02/23/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Fassbinder's debut is a difficult yet important film in his catalogue of over 40 features.. It is exciting in the way Godard's 'breathless' was exciting.. it announces a new and radically different talent to the scene.. The story of the film is ironic in that it is a gangster movie.. but don't come expecting action.. Like godard, fassbinder is concerned with getting somewhere deeper by having us look into the cliches of cinema and at the same time celebrating these cliches.. This movie is full of long camera shots that seem so disconnected from the story as to pull the viewer away and make him think - this is something godard fans are quite familiar with.. but nothing in godard will prepare you for fassbinder's completely oddball grocery shopping scene.. which is my personal favorite moment from 'love is colder than death'.. This is a rough unpolished film which is difficult to watch.. but at the same time a major achievement.. After this fassbinder would make his first masterpiece - 'katzelmacher' - here he is still getting his style together- exciting movie.."