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Love Is Colder Than Death: The Cinema of Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Thursday, December 12, 2013
7:00 p.m. Martha
Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Germany, 1973)

Imported Print!

Student Pick!


Martha never had a theatrical run in the United States, due to a problem with rights to the Cornell Woolrich novel on which the plot is loosely based. Jonathan Rosenbaum, in the Chicago Reader, called it “my favorite Fassbinder movie. . . . A virgin librarian in her thirties named Martha Hyer (Margit Carstensen) meets a bridge builder (Karlheinz Böhm) while vacationing in Rome (and they) wind up getting married back in Germany. It’s a match made in heaven—she’s a masochist, he’s a sadist. . . . A parody of bourgeois marriage . . . it proceeds like a Hollywood nightmare (with) the husband’s insane demands and accelerating cruelties and the wife’s belief that she deserves this behavior. . . . The content is hysterical, but the baroque visual style is so controlled that it’s hard to figure out which is more outrageous, the couple’s madness or the film’s treatment of it as normal and everyday. The irreconcilable tension between these registers produces a kind of spontaneous combustion in the viewer—a crisis in representation whose effects are political in the most potent way.”

• Written by Fassbinder. Photographed by Michael Ballhaus. With Margit Carstensen, Karlheinz Böhm, Gisela Fackeldey, Adrian Hoven. (116 mins, In German with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Studiocanal)