Film Stream Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz

Fassbinder © Bavaria Media International

Fri, 03/12/2021 -
Fri, 03/26/2021


Re-visiting the 15-hour TV miniseries

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Streaming in US only.

With a running time of approximately 15 hours, Berlin Alexanderplatz is a monument of late 20th-century filmmaking and is seen by many as the consummate expression of film giant Rainer Werner Fassbinder´s vision of humanity. Produced in 1980, the TV miniseries will be screened in 13 parts and an epilogue and is available online over a two-week period.
Alfred Döblin’s novel Berlin Alexanderplatz was considered one of the great masterworks of German prose from the very year of its first publication in 1929. Brilliantly combining realistic expressionist and mythological elements, Döblin captures the essence of the mad, boiling capitol of Berlin at the end of the twenties: the bewildering masses in the city, its host of the unemployed, its hungry riffraff, its hypocritical lower middle class. Berlin, the Sodom before the doom, the city where fascism is set to take the reins only a few years later. Centered in the spotlight of attention and set apart from the nameless masses of “small people” is the protagonist: Franz Bieberkopf. He is released from prison where he has been serving his sentence for homicide. Now he is determined to become a “decent man”. A fool to himself for all his kindness, Franz Biberkopf staggers through the confusion and hulla-ballloo of the big city. Then Franz meets Reinhold, the pimp and unscrupulous criminal, and he is again dragged into crimes. When Reinhold kills Mieze, Franz’s girl, he bereaves him of his sole reason for living.
Drama in 13 parts + epilogue
Germany 1980
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
869 min
Berlin Alexanderplatz © Bavaria Media International 1 - Punishment is still to come
1928. Franz Biberkopf is released from the prison of Berlin -Tegel where he has been serving a term of four years for killing his girl Ida. Gaining a new foothold in Berlin is all but easy for him, yet at last he finds his way around again. He makes a solemn oath: from now on he will lead a decent life and never again do the things honest people wouldn't do. And besides, his new girl Lina will help hirn turn over a new leaf.

2 - How can you live, if you don' t want to die ?
Tirnes are tough, and work is scarce. At a lower-class amusement place one day Franz Biberkopf.meets a man who is able to get him a job - and some job, too ! Biberkopf becomes a newsvendor for the Nazi paper "Völkischer Beobachter". lt seems that his fortunes have finally taken a turn for the better, but his cronies at his favourite pub are not at all enthusiastic about him standing at a street-corner with an arm -band showing the swastika, calling out the latest Nazi propaganda slogans. But what else could Franz do, since Lina is strictly against bis peddling sex literature?

Berlin Alexanderplatz © Bavaria Media International 3 - A blow with a hammer can hurt the soul 
Lina' s uncle is making good money in the peddling business, and Biberkopf decides to a ccompany him on his rounds frorn house to house hawking shoe-laces. Business is so -so till Biberkopf meets a woman whom Franz seems to remind very rnuch of her deceased husband. They have coffee together, and then there is more to share - Bieberkopf has not been spoilt with deep experiences lately. He confides his adventure to his partner and suffers his first big disappointment since his release from prison: double-crossing him, his partner blackmails the woman, and Biberkopf is put in the wrong - in spite of his earnest efforts to become a decent man. lt nearly breaks his heart.

4 - A handful of people under a fathom of silence 
His disappointment with his former partner nearly drives Franz Biberkopf mad. He retires to a lonely board ing room and refuses to see anybody.  All he does is drink. He watches life passing by, from the distance, like through a heavy fog . And what goes on around him is no encouragement for him to take his place in life again: the world he can see from his backyard -window is full of evil and malice, and the wrong people benefit from what little justice there is.

5 - A reaper with the power of the Almighty 
Franz Biberkopf is back in his place again, determined to take up his old struggle against the odds of life. And where could he find a better stand for that than at his usual pub  At the pub Franz gets to know Pums and his gang, who are doing mighty good business of a kind better left unmentioned.  And then Franz rneets another man: Reinhold, the stutterer with the sad eyes. An ex-prisoner like Franz? A prisoner, yes, but a cap­tive of his quickly passing infatuations with women. His affairs always follow the same pattern: hardly is he holding a wornan in bis arms, he gets tired of her, looking for a way to get rid of her. Franz is the one who can take these women off his hands and he is quite willing to be of help to his new friend. Together they set up a regular, flourisbing "traffic" in girlfriends.

6 - The price for love is always high 
Franz Biberkopf ist tired of swapping girlfriends, and besides, he feels that this is not the way to really help his friend Reinhold . More by chance than on intention, Biberkopf becomes involved in one of the coups landed by the Purns gang, a criminal one, no doubt, but - as usual - Franz has only a vague idea of what is actually going on. Now he has broken his oath of be­ coming a decent man, and it all but costs his life on top of that. He had better not tell anyone about Reinhold' s part in this story - after all, Reinhold is his best friend and Franz loves him.

7 - Remember: an oath can be amputated 
Franz Biberkopf is a cripple now, he has lost an arm, but the one which is left to him is all the stronger for that. lt takes Biberkopf a mighty long time to recover, but in the end he picks up courage again, especially since Eva and her friend Herbert take good care of him and even want to avenge him for the harm which has been done to him. But Franz wants no revenge, he wants to let things past be past and over with. And when he hears Willy talking politics, he even begins considering a tomorrow.

Berlin Alexanderplatz © Bavaria Media International 8 - The sun will warm - and sometimes burn - the skin 
Franz Biberkopf is about to drop his oath about leading a decent life. Without this obligation he feels better right away. And then he meets a girl called Mieze: the mere sight of her makes the sun come out from behind the clouds for him. Such a good little woman she is! So tiny beside him, he could easily carry her off in his pocket. Franz falls in love, and his old strength returns. One day, a letter addressed to Mieze happens to pass his way, and Franz cannot resist opening it: it is a love letter from another man who has fallen in love with Biberkopf' s girl. Suddenly Franz is numbed by the fear that he might lose his little Mieze.

Berlin Alexanderplatz © Bavaria Media International 9 - Of the eternities separating the many from the few
Eva has tried to reassure Franz, telling him that Mieze is a thoroughly decent girl; if she goes out to walk the streets for him, this should be taken as a token of her love. Franz goes to meet Mieze at her usual corner Jean Paul St. / Moses St. And as he sees her stand ing there by the board fence in full sunlight, so fragile and beautiful, it fills his heart with a warm feeling to know that he is the one for whom she is standing there: suddenly he is aware how much he loves her and how terribly Mieze loves him. From this very moment Franz feels strong enough even to face Reinhold again, who had tried to kill him. Biberkopf takes an interest in politics, too: now that he has no work to do he attends a political meeting which he finds very strange, indeed . "Isn' t it funny ", he muses, "that one can be for a thing and against it at the same time?"

10 - Loneliness may break walls and tear cracks of madness 
Mieze has come up with a new idea: she wants to have a child from Franz, a little Franz so to speak, because she loves him so much. Since Mieze cannot have any children, she wants Eva to have one in her place - after all, it makes no difference who the actual mother is, as long as Franz is the father of the child . Mieze has become very independent in other ways, too: she wants to go on a holiday for three days with one of her clients. Why shouldn' t she - the man will pay her well, and Franz is the one to benefit from the money. Franz is desperate: three whole days without his little Mieze! In the end, is he still good for any thing at all ? Everyone is so concerned about Franz and his wellbeing that he is not even asked what he really wants.

11 - lt' s good to know a thing or two, and: The early bird catches the worm 
Franz Biberkopf feels entirely useless - all he wants is a chance to earn some rnoney of his own. He joins the Purns gang. They don' t really trust him there, but they let him run along with them. Now Franz is earning his own money, and his spirits are on the rise. In fact, he is so high -spirited that he has Reinhold hide behind his bed so that his friend may see what true happiness it is to be loved by a woman. But of all possible moments the unsuspecting Mieze choses that very occasion to confess Franz her love for another man. She does not want to leave Franz; after all. they belong together now. Franz is so stricken with grief - it nearly drives him out of his mind . By a fraction of an inch he would have killed Mieze, his most precious love.

Berlin Alexanderplatz © Bavaria Media International 12 - The viper in the soul of t he serpent
Mieze has forgiven Franz and stays with him, although he nearly killed her in the frenzy of his grief. But fate still has another blow in store for Franz Biberkopf, the hardest one of all: Reinhold, who has been after Mieze for some time already, has devised a clever plan in order to catch Mieze alone somewhere. Unaware of the trap which has been set for her, Mieze follows him into the lonely woods. She is almost taken in by Reinhold' s attempts to seduce her, and she is murdered in the end.

Berlin Alexanderplatz © Bavaria Media International 13 - The outside and the inside, and: Our mysterious fear of mystery 
Franz Biberkopf feels crushed. Mieze, the only person he ever trusted and loved in this world, a world which has taught him that nobody is to be trusted and that love is a big lie anyway - Mieze has deserted him. At least, he cannot find her anywhere, and nobody can tell Franz where she could be. When Franz learns that Mieze has been murdered, he is unable to choke back a laugh - at least she did not betray him, after all.

Epilogue - Rainer Werner Fassbinder: My drearn of the dream of Franz Biberkopf
Franz Biberkopf is interned at a lunatic asylum. Not so long ago he had promised to lead a decent life; but how can a man keep such a promise without losing his mind? Now that he no longer needs to live his life, he can begin dreaming it. But the reflection he finds in the mirror of his dreams distresses Franz Biberkopf: he finds a man who is arrogant and ignorant and rude, yet at the sarne time a coward and a weakling. Has he made a mess of everything by bis obstinacy and arrogance ? Has he made himself guilty for all this ? Thus a new Biberkopf is born at the end of a long life - a broken man, yet one who is fit for living.