Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Why Does Herr R Run Amok? (RW Fassbinder, 1970)

Why Does Herr R Run Amok? is truly the kind of film where it's best not to know the ending, to go through the film unsure of the point until the very end (and even then?). But, the nature of the film necessitates that any intelligent (fingers crossed) discussion of the film focus on the ending; so, if you don't mind knowing how Herr R runs amok, or have seen it, then read on. And if you do mind, go see it now and tell me what you think.

Kurt Raab plays Kurt Raab (and there's the first very interesting meta-textual bit!), the titular Herr R who has a lovely wife, a young son, and a job as a draftsman in a small office where everyone, at least on the surface, is friendly to one another. The movie is 75 minutes of Raab's life: his wife's parents come to visit, the neighbors and assorted friends come over for coffee, he works in his office, he visits his son's school, and so on. Most of these encounters are those of the most mundane order, things that we do every day and take no notice of. Fassbinder forces us to notice them, however, with his long, unbroken camera shots and unflinching eye to the small pieces that make up our lives. One particularly beautiful in its portrayal of "nothing" shot is in Herr R's office, where we see what each of the four employees (but, not suprisingly, the superior boss) are working on in pretty good detail. Herr R seems happiest, or at least happy, when he is at his job.

But while many of the scenes are commonplace, a few are so painful I almost couldn't bear to watch. When Herr R goes into the record store and asks the young, beautiful clerks if they could identify a song he heard on the radio. They start out giggling at him behind their hands, and by the end, are fully laughing in his face. The strangest thing is, he doesn't seem to notice or care. The dinner party with his coworkers is another painful event in Herr R's life that he doesn't notice; the looks on his coworkers (and especially boss's) faces when he gives a speech says it all. And when he practically begs his boss to stay and "drink in friendship" with him, it's heartbreaking.

We hear about Herr Rs on the news every once in a while, seemingly normal men who one day snap and kill their families. When Herr R does it, right after changing the volume on the tv and in the middle of listening to a neighbor speak about her upcoming skiing trip, it doesn't make any more sense than hearing about it on the news. We don't know any more about his mental state than those cases on the news, even though we have spent an hour and a half inside his world. He didn't react to the boldfaced disrespects, but snaps at nothing. It's as if he has finally had enough and lets the world know. And when the authorities come for him at work the next day, he hangs himself in the bathroom, leaving behind a mystery that no one will ever understand. Fassbinder doesn't try to solve the mystery; instead, he just shows the audience that the mystery exists. That's the mark of a genius filmmaker.


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