Enfant Terrible: captivating film about Rainer Werner Fassbinder

By Moira Jean Sullivan

Enfant Terrible (Germany, 2020) is a biographical film artistically made about the German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Directed by Oskar ROEHLER, it was in the official competition at Cannes in 2020. Oliver MASUCCI plays Fassbinder who doesn’t really look like him but you get used to it. The film is in German and chronicles Fassbinder’s early films, his film crew and his actors that he tormented on the set and his rise to fame. He is shown at Cannes, and Berlin where he wins a Golden Bear. His films were statements against the postwar German state, and we hear the news in the background about the politically violent revolutionary group - Baader Meinhof. Fassbinder worked as a "revolutionary" in film – his working methods were bizarre and crude, and although he had an empathy with the downtrodden such as transgenders, he still treated them badly. He is so strung out on coke and hard liquor during most of the film it is hard to believe that he was talented enough to win prizes. And that seems to be because, which comes across so well in this film, he was so out of control. He said what no one dared to and had no self-censorship. There is a not a sober scene in Enfant Terrible and with so much cocaine, most of his art was created under the influence. Some of his more memorable films such as Querelle (1982) with Jeanne Moreau are rehearsed within the film. Katja RIEMANN is excellent as Gudrun, probably one of the more level headed actors he works with. One of Fassbinder’s lovers, Salem (Erdal YILDIZ) threatens the actors with a knife if they don’t hand over their money after Fassbinder leaves him.

As an artist Fassbinder wants to be known with the big names of film – Godard and Orson Welles and the big names of art such as Andy Warhol and there is an excellent scene of the two. Despite his successes, the film portrays him as a crude man, always taking risks and insulting his friends. But Oskar ROEHLER also succeeds in showing us Fassbinder as a private person away from the people he emulated and tried to impress.

Enfant Terrible is an extremely engaging film that allow you to enter a world that is so chaotic and defiant, as Fassbinder certainly was. He was only 36 years old when he died but seemed so much older. A film such as this may fictionalize a real person but to really know Fassbinder there are his over 45 films and 24 plays. As part of the New German Film Movement, he stands apart from directors such as Margarethe von Trotta and Volker Schondorff but he did critique the Germany born after the fall of the Third Reich, something that Baader-Meinhof did as well.

© 2021 - Moira Jean Sullivan - Air Date: 05/12/21
Movie Magazine International