In an effort to rejuvenate my thirst for film I have partaken on an ambitious endeavor. I have decided to compile my list of 100 favorite films, “rewatch” them, and write a brief review. I encourage you to follow along.
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Fassbinder, 1972)
We watch Petra flail with the theatrics of emotion, while Karin, the object of such immediate affection for Petra, sways beautifully to the music with eyes closed. This, while Marlene, the diligent slave to Peta watches. She stands close enough to touch Karin, but she feels miles away. She knows what happens to Petra in the presence of such beauty, and she fears her already servile life will get worse.
Other than the obvious visual cues and nuggets of dialogue, nothing in this film is apparent until it’s over. One doesn’t seem to grasp the loneliness of each character until after we have time to reflect on such scenes as Petra laying in bed, with her mother sitting beside her. The two are so lost in their own loneliness and self-absorption that they have two conversations at once. Petra rambles of her pain, and her mother of hers, and neither one listens. It is then that one realizes the entire film is made up of these conversations. Each character makes an emotional declaration without any notice from the other. Every declaration carelessly runs into each other.
It is the character of Marlene, acting as the emotional stenographer, who seems to bear the weight of all the lies, loneliness, and deceit that each character spills without conscious. She is the counter to both the flamboyance and emotional recklessness or Petra, and the cold, emotionally barren Karin. The film is seen through her eyes, and theoretically through her sensibility. This could account for the exaggerated actions of each character, including their makeup and dress.
Fassbinder, fully aware and purposeful in his use of such exaggerated emotion had the brilliant idea to keep the film confined to one small room. This is to keep that pain and loneliness from dissipating in the air of reality, and makes even the smallest of “tragedies” in the life of Petra seem so much bigger.
– James Merolla