Fassbinder, Rainer Werner

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Fassbinder, Rainer Werner

Rainer Werner Fassbinder (rī´nər vĕr´nər fäs´bĬn´dər), 1946–82, German filmmaker, b. Bad Wörishofen, Bavaria. One of the most highly regarded and prolific directors of the post–World War II generation and a leading figure in modern German cinema, he began his career as an actor in Munich's avant-garde theater and established his own ensemble in the late 1960s. Beginning (1969) to work in cinema, he used an informal repertory group to make over 40 films in rapid succession, often completing them in three to four weeks. His work is generally characterized by harsh originality, political and social cynicism, and a pessimism that often shades into despair. Influenced by Brecht, Marx, Freud, and the filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and Douglas Sirk, he worked in a number of cinematic genres, often mingling politics and melodrama.

Fassbinder also wrote, produced, edited, and acted in many of his films. His works include Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? (1969), The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972), Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974), The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978), and Lola and Veronika Voss (both: 1982). He is also known for his television work, notably Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980), a 15-hour adaptation of Alfred Döblin's 1929 novel that portrays Berlin between the world wars. Fassbinder made two films in English, Despair (1977) and Querrelle (1982). Avid in his manner of filmmaking and in his pursuit of dissipation, he died of an overdose of alcohol and drugs.

See his Anarchy of the Imagination: Interviews, Essays, Notes (1992); biographies by R. Katz (1987), R. Hayman (1984), and C. B. Thomsen (1997, repr. 2004); studies by J. Shattuc (1995), T. Elsaesser (1996), W. S. Watson (1996), and L. Kardish, ed. (1997).

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