Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Dead by 37, openly bi-sexual, constantly controversial: Rainer Werner Fassbinder was arguably post-war Germany’s greatest filmmaker.

A fearless artist who knew no taboos, Fassbinder combined scathing social criticism with profound psychological insight. After failing to get into film school he turned instead to the theatre, rapidly winning renown as a radical, innovative writer-director. With ferocious energy, though minimal resources, he started to make films, building a loyal team of actors and technicians drawn from the theatre (his first 10 features were made in less than two years). An insatiable film addict from early childhood, Fassbinder drew inspiration from the French New Wave and, later, from the Hollywood melodramas of Douglas Sirk and others. But what emerged from his dazzling fusion of style and content was a powerful, personal vision of people imprisoned by social constraints and their own contradictory desires. Provocative, poignant, darkly witty: these are films that could change your life. Fassbinder is the subject of a major retrospective at BFI Southbank through April and May 2017.

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Fear Eats the SoulFear Eats the Soul

Melodrama197493 minsDirector: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Fassbinder’s international breakthrough, this unconventional love story combines lucid social analysis with devastating emotional power.

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Chinese RouletteChinese Roulette

Drama197686 minsDirector: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Psychodrama with a vengeance: Anna Karina stars in Fassbinder’s first international co-production; another deadly assault on the institution of marriage.

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The Marriage of Maria BraunThe Marriage of Maria Braun

Drama1978120 minsDirector: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

With a blazing star performance from Hanna Schygulla in the title role, this was the greatest critical and commercial success of Fassbinder’s career.

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The Bitter Tears of Petra von KantThe Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

Drama1972124 minsDirector: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Fassbinder's visual and verbal extravaganza about a successful but lonely fashion designer who falls in love with a beautiful younger woman.

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Effi BriestEffi Briest

Drama1974140 minsDirector: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Fassbinder's exquisitely subtle rendition of Fontane’s great novel, starring the great Hanna Schygulla as the titular 17-year-old who is forced into a socially advantageous marriage with a much older man.

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Fox and His FriendsFox and His Friends

Drama1975124 minsDirector: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Fassbinder's brilliantly caustic and cynical drama follows an ex-fairground worker who wins the lottery but is still mocked and exploited by his boyfriend’s family and friends.

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Drama196989 minsDirector: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

A Greek immigrant unleashes jealousy and xenophobia among a group of Munich neighbours in Fassbinder’s shocking adaptation of his own play.

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Love Is Colder than DeathLove Is Colder than Death

Gangster196989 minsDirector: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Fassbinder stars in his debut feature as a petty criminal whose desire for freedom is undermined by his emotional needs.

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Beware of a Holy WhoreBeware of a Holy Whore

Drama1971104 minsDirector: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

In an elegant Spanish hotel lobby, a film cast and crew outdo one another in displays of professional and sexual rivalry while waiting endlessly for shooting to begin.

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The Merchant of Four SeasonsThe Merchant of Four Seasons

Drama197288 minsDirector: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Fassbinder’s first foray into melodrama follows an ex-policeman forced to become a fruit-seller, while his wife craves bourgeois respectability and his family despises his lowly status.