This essay was commissioned by the Australian DVD label Madman, for their 2008 release of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. In fact, I wrote essays about four separate Fassbinder films for them — the three others were Katzelmacher, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, and Martha. —J.R.
“I love movies. Pictures about passion—and pain. Lovely!
[…] “Discipline’s okay as long as you’re having fun.”
–Karin (Hanna Schygulla) in The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant
An early watershed in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s career as a filmmaker, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972), his twelfth feature, might even be regarded as the first in which he explicitly “discovered” mise en scène. Adapting his own play —- which had premiered in Darmstadt half a year before, in June 1971, in a production directed by Peer Raben —- the film makes no effort to “open up” the original material in terms of its original setting, the flat of its title heroine, and it focuses on issues of camera placement and camera movement like few other Fassbinder films made before or since.
For Christian Braad Thomsen, who may be Fassbinder’s most authoritative critic, the film marks a significant turning point.… Read more »