“I want to be a new man, a decent man.”
An ex-con (Gunter Lamprecht) struggles to stay employed and find love in corruption-riddled 1920s Berlin.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Character Studies
- Fassbinder Films
- German Films
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, Berlin 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. This remains a truly absorbing character study constructed on an unprecedented cinematic scale, and well worth the time investment — though as Peary points out, it’s “much easier to watch in hour installments on television, for which it was originally made” (or in two-hour DVD viewings).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
Yes, as a genuine classic of German cinema — and for its fame as the longest cinematic narrative ever made.
- Foreign Gem
- Historically Relevant
- Important Director