Blu-ray Review: The Rainer Werner Fassbinder Collection

Rainer Werner Fassbinder will be an unfamiliar name to many but the German director was highly prolific, completing forty film in a career spanning just 15 years. He was possibly the most important figure in German New Wave cinema and his early death in 1982 deprived the world of a huge talent and a highly distinctive film maker. Arrow Films release a collection of 10 of his best films, all with a 4k restoration, on Monday.

The highlights include:

Fear Eats the Soul

Possibly Fassninder’s most powerful work, Fear Eats the Soul is the story or Ali (El Hedi ben Salem), a Moroccan guest worker in his 30s, and Emmi (Brigitte Mira), a 60 year old widow. Their unorthodox relationship causes consternation, not only in the bar where he drinks with his friends, but also with Emmi’s family and co-workers. Fear Eats the Soul is a powerful study of race and prejudice in ’70s Germany.

The Marriage of Maria Braun

Maria’s (Hanna Schygulla) joy of marrying Hermann Braun (Klaus Löwitsch) is soon tempered when he’s whisked off to fight in World War II the next day. Maria adapts to life in post-war Germany, working for a wealthy industrialist (Ivan Desny) after Hermann is jailed for murdering her lover. The Marriage of Maria Braun is Fassbinder’s biggest and most accessible film; featuring a wonderful central performance from Schygulla. It’s a politicly dark treatise on how best intentions are influenced by external events.

The Merchant of Four Seasons

Hans (Hans Hirschmüller) returns home after several years in the foreign legion to his wife Irmgard (Irm Hermann) and a small daughter. Working as a fruit pedlar he feels life has passed him by. Wallowing in abject failure, he takes to drink. Hans spirals out of control driving a wedge between his family whilst chasing the ‘one that got away’. The Merchant of Four Seasons is very much a social drama set around self-destruction and redemption. It’s an impressive meditation on the frailty of man.

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

Filmed entirely in the bedroom of a fashion designer Petra von Kant (Margit Carstensen), Fassbinder uses an all-female cast as he investigates power dynamics within relationships through her ‘maid’ Marlene (Irm Hermann), a young model Karin (Hanna Schygulla) and her mother. Adapted from the director’s own play, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kan is a fascinating study on domination and submission.

The set contains:

Love is Colder Than Death
Beware of a Holy Whore
The Merchant of Four Seasons
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Fear Eats the Soul
Effi Briest
Fox and His Friends
Chinese Roulette
The Marriage of Maria Braun

Limited Edition Contents:

Limited edition box set (1,000 copies)

Brand new 4K restorations of the films from original camera negatives

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations

Original uncompressed PCM mono audio

Optional English subtitles on all films

Six audio commentaries: Adrian Martin on Beware of a Holy Whore, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Christian McCrea on The Merchant of Four Seasons, Diane Charleson on The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, Mark Freeman on Fear Eats the Soul, Ken Moulden on Effi Briest and Hamish Ford on Fox and His Friends

Two early short films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder from 1966, The Little Chaos and The City Tramp
My Name is Not Ali, Viola Shafik’s 2011 feature-length documentary on the life and death of El Hedi ben Salem, star of Fear Eats the Soul

Newly-filmed interview with actor Lou Castel on Beware of a Holy Whore

Newly-filmed interviews with actor Ulli Lommel on Love is Colder Than Death, Effi Briest and Chinese Roulette

Newly-filmed interviews with director of photography Jürgen Jürges on Fear Eats the Soul and Effi Briest

The Rainer Werner Fassbinder Family, an all-new featurette detailing the actors who worked with Fassbinder time and again throughout his career

Life Stories: A Conversation with R.W. Fassbinder, a 50-minute interview with the director conducted for German television in 1978

End of the Commune, Joachim von Mengershausen’s 1970 documentary portrait of Fassbinder and his troupe including rare footage of his actors rehearsing and Love is Colder Than Death’s premiere at the 1969 Berlin Film Festival

Role-Play: Women on Fassbinder, a 1992 documentary containing interviews with four of the director’s leading ladies, Margit Carstensen, Irm Hermann, Hanna Schygulla and Rosel Zech
Life, Love & Celluloid, a 1998 feature-length documentary on Fassbinder, written and directed by his regular editor, Juliane Lorenz

Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1977, a candid 30-minute interview with the director

Original theatrical trailers for Katzelmacher, Beware of a Holy Whore, Fear Eats the Soul, Fox and His Friends and Chinese Roulette

200-page hardback book, exclusive to this limited edition box set, containing all-new writing by Tony Rayns, Gertrud Koch, Michael Pattison, Nick Pinkerton, Ashley Clark, Erica Carter, Alex Davidson, Glenn Kenny and Margaret Deriaz

The Rainer Werner Fassbinder Collection is released on Blu-ray by Arrow Films today.

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