“How is One to Live if One Doesn’t Want to Die?”
An ex-con (Gunter Lamprecht) struggles to stay employed and find love in corruption-riddled 1920s Berlin.
Response to Peary’s Review:
This “mammoth work” by Rainer Werner Fassbinder — “alternately astonishing and boring” — is infamous for possessing the longest running time (15 1/2 hours) of any feature film (though its original status as made-for-television makes this distinction somewhat dubious). Regardless of its length, Alexanderplatz remains — as Peary notes — “extraordinary” fare, an undeniable investment of time which offers a “rewarding viewing experience despite the slow moments, the ambiguous philosophizing, and the disappointing [Epilogue] resolution.” Heavy-set Gunter Lamprecht — far from leading-man fare — buoys the entire film, making us care about his fate despite his often ill-advised actions; while it’s difficult to believe that the pudgy, eventually one-armed Biberkopf could so easily attract beautiful women one after the other, we’re willing to suspend judgment in favor of remaining caught up in his oddly compelling travails.
P.S. As Peary points out, Berlin Alexanderplatz is “much easier to watch in hour installments on television, for which it was originally made” (or, given its recent release, in two-hour DVD viewings).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Gunter Lamprecht as Franz Biberkopf
- Hanna Schygulla as Eva
- Barbara Sukowa as Mieze
- Gottfried John as Reinhold Hoffmann — Biberkopf’s “personal devil”
- Xaver Schwarzenberger’s dream-like cinematography
- A truly absorbing character study constructed on an unprecedented cinematic scale
Yes, as a genuine classic of German cinema — and for its infamy as the longest cinematic narrative ever made.