Wednesday, 25 October
End of the Road Cinema: Third Generation
THE THIRD GENERATION 1979
(Die Dritte Generation)
Directed Rainer Werner Fassbinder
In German with English subtitles
"If we ever needed a comedy about terrorism, now's the time – and Fassbinder is the one who delivered it... in 1979."
Directly after making one of his biggest successes The Marriage of Maria Braun, German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder dove into this spectacularly controversial and risky project, which is a meditation on the new generation of terrorists that sprung up in Europe in the late 70s. It centers on a left-wing underground terrorist cell in Berlin whose aim is to overthrow the capitalist system, and shows how in their chaotic madness they become pawns of the very establishment they are fighting against. At one point their terrorist activities are even merrily funded by a businessman to boost his computer sales, and soon the mass media also begin to publicize their terrorist actions so the government can use their violence as an excuse to push even more repressive and sinister legislation. Sound familiar?
This film is wild, absurd, hilarious... and it's also an acute warning about the mindset of any extremism. On some level, it even exposes a hidden erotic excitement beneath terrorism... for example, Margit Carstensen who plays Petra Vielhaber in this film, seems sexually enraptured by the terrorist actions - and whenever an even more ridiculous and crazy plan is brought up, she ecstatically cries "Oh, yes, let's do it!" no matter how pointless the action is. It is a sort of frenzy. And then during the course of the movie we have Ingrid Caven singing torch songs about love stories that have gone wrong, reflecting the cheap romanticism behind terrorism.
The film is absolutely madcap... hyperbolic, cluttered, absurd... and repeatedly falls into the vertigo of overlapping soundtracks. The sound is used as a relentless assault on the viewer. But beyond this chaotic experimentation it is also a slapstick comedy... a very dark one, in fact. It remains one of Fassbinder's boldest films. He not only directed it, but also wrote it and did the cinematography. Shot in trail-blazing primary colors, with over-the-top acting by Fassbinder's usual suspects (Hanna Schygulla, Bulle Ogier, Udo Kier, Volker Spengler, Margit Carstensen and Eddie Constantine) it comes dangerously close to cartoon aesthetics. Throughout the movie, intertitles appear from time to time; they are simply graffiti texts that Fassbinder collected from the public toilets in Berlin.
It goes without saying that this is another movie that ruffled a lot of feathers: at one screening in Hamburg the audience dragged the projectionist out of his booth and beat him unconscious. There were also death threats sent to the movie theatres that showed it, from both the left and the right.
Don't expect an easily digestible thriller... this is a hell of a ride in both form and content.
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