in about 100 words or less
Not since my viewing of Krzysztof Kieślowski 561m Dekalog project, have been as excited and challenged by what I am getting ready to watch. I recently picked up Criterion’s 941m, seven disc DVD release of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 14-part West German television miniseries, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980) and will provide a brief synopsis on each segment over the course of the coming weeks, followed by a review in about 100 words or less (Klaus Ming February 2015).
1 “The Punishment Begins” – The year is 1928 and Franz Biberkopf is disoriented by his new surroundings after release from a Berlin jail where he spent four years for killing his girlfriend Ida. Wanting to break from his past, Franz does quite the opposite, and pays a visit to Ida’s sister and forces himself upon her. Eventually meeting up with Meck, an old friend at a local bar, he is introduced to Lina, a Polish woman to whom he declares that he is finally ready to make a new start.
2 “How is One to Live if One Doesn’t Want to Die?” – Earning an honest living in Berlin between the wars presents a challenge for Franz who resorts to selling a Nazi Party newspaper and wearing a swastika armband. Questioned by old acquaintances, including a Jewish sausage vendor, he declares himself not to be an antisemite and criticizes the communist political movement for being ineffective. At the day’s end, while waiting for Lina in a bar, Franz is branded a facist by a group of angry socialists.
3 “A Hammer Blow to the Head Can Injure the Soul” – Abandoning his work selling Nazi newspapers to avoid further trouble, Franz starts a new job selling shoelaces door to door with Otto, a fellow ex-con and an old friend of Lina’s. Making friends with a widowed woman who invites him in for coffee, and something more, Franz returns the next day with roses, only to have the door slammed in his face. Rejected, and not knowing why, Franz takes shelter in a flop house, while Lina finds solace with Meck, when she realizes that Franz has left her.
4 “A Handful of People in the Depths of Silence”
5 “A Reaper with the Power of Our Lord”
6 “Love Has Its Price”
7 “Remember — An Oath can be Amputated”
8 “The Sun Warms the Skin, but Burns it Sometimes Too”
9 “About the Eternities Between the Many and the Few”
10 “Loneliness Tears Cracks of Madness Even in Walls”
11 “Knowledge is Power and the Early Bird Catches the Worm”
12 “The Serpent in the Soul of the Serpent”
13 “The Outside and the Inside and the Secret of Fear of the Secret”
14 “My Dream of the Dream of Franz Biberkopf by Alfred Döblin, An Epilogue”
Three down, and 12 to go. Loving the Criterion treatment of this production.