10 Great Films Influenced by The Cinema of Rainer Werner Fassbinder

6. 2046 (Wong Kar Wai, 2004)


“I admire the way his women sit in a scene” – Wong Kar-wai

With a peculiar statement like this, Wong Kar-Wai referred to what caught his attention about Fassbinder’s films to the Die Welt. It’s hard to think of the influence of Rainer on a cinema that thematically seems so far from his.

But even if Kar-Wai is not (explicitly) trying to reveal political issues of his nation, his link with Fassbinder goes in the sensual rhythm and visuals that he had worked with Christopher Doyle. The director also talked about the strength that women show in Fassbinder’s films.

Of all the stylized romances of Kar-Wai’s filmography, maybe it is the sci-fi incursion where we can find this strength in its best shape. Every time Su Li-zhen (Li Gong) or Wang Jing-wen (Faye Wong) enters a room, we get into this sensual pacing where you get enchanted even by the way they sit.

Fassbinder once said that the best way to look at change is to look at the places that have no change. Kar-Wai takes a hotel that we see in the 60’s, but also in a lot of imaginary (or not so imaginary) future moments. The place is the same, but what is constantly changing is relationships.

To build this atmosphere Kar-Wai takes help from some Peer Raben’s pieces of music. Peer Raben was one of the most recurrent musical collaborators of Fassbinder. Not only that, he uses two pieces that we can hear in other Fassbinder’s films such as The Third Generation and Querelle.


7. Battle In Heaven (Carlos Reygadas, 2005)

Battle In Heaven

As a native Spanish-speaker I can say that some parts of the Mexican Battle in Heaven were very difficult to understand. In Reygadas’ second film, the use of the Mexican slang seems excessive at first view. Even in films where the narrative is not very clear, or is not a central point in the movie (like in the case of Reygadas work), the viewer is not used to hear long dialogues where the ideas are hard to catch.

Reygadas has said in an interview that the work of Fassbinder made him think about becoming a director. Fassbinder, and others like Pasolini, loved to trick the audience by playing with the voices. He made skinny actors dub the stronger ones, or old ladies dub young girls. Even in his most emotional films, Fassbinder always kept this kind of distance with the spectator.

Then, when Battle in Haven goes forward, the Spanish becomes more familiar, and we can understand the characters and their words clearly. It is not a coincidence that this is the point where the high-class characters appear. Reygadas makes the same game of distance with a very clear point and shows, in a fassbinderian way, how there is content in what a character says, but also in the way the character says it.

Battle in Heaven made a lot of controversy in the first screenings in Mexico. Reygadas puts realism in things where the cinema codes are rigid and is always uncomfortable to move. In spoken word and, especially, in sex. The sex between fat characters, or the explicit showing of the erected penis of Marcos (Marcos Hernández) gave a difficult time to a lot of viewers in its premiere.

Also because the environment of Marcos shows the bleakest image you can see of the urban Mexico City. The same environment that humiliates Marcos in the subway, on a scene that seems to make echoes of the opening hitting of In a Year with 13 Moons.


8. To Die Like A Man (João Pedro Rodrigues, 2009)

To Die Like A Man

To Die Like a Man tells the story of Zé Maria (Chandra Malatitch) a decadent drag-queen that has to take care of his self-destructive junkie boyfriend. She also has to deal with his problematic son that finds it impossible to accept the sexual identity of its father. She tries to erase any trace of her life as a man.

In his decadent scenery, Pedro Rodrigues mixes drama and light musical in a way that their characters can only look sadder and sadder. The interpretation of the melodrama in the hands of Rodrigues is even more rusty and poor than every Fassbinder effort. He plays a more extreme version of this, but he focuses on the same things, in the casual and intimacy moments as the ones that reveal the truth.

Zé Maria is constantly drowned emotionally by her boyfriend, making the same kind of power relationship we can find in Ozon’s Water Drops on Burning Rocks or in Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant: there is always an oppressed and an oppressor in love. In this case the young junkie is in advantage because of its age and beauty.

Also the eternal search of love from her son that Zé Maria makes resembles the search that Peter Trepper (Vitus Zeplichal) makes for the love of his father in I Only Want You To Love Me. The visual imaginary of Rodrigues is very unique and sometimes beautiful, and his explorations of cruelty bring us again to the work of Rainer Werner Fassbinder.


9. Barbara (Christian Petzold, 2012)


When Barbara came out, it caught the attention of the German critics for the way Petzold could create something as difficult as the abstract atmosphere that surrounded everything during the East Germany times. Barbara is a doctor sent to work in a small country hospital in GDR. While she plans her escape with his West Germany lover, she starts to discover how the hospital works. But more impressive than the plot was how Petzold had the feeling of an époque captured.

When Petzold was asked about the inspiration for that, he mentioned The Merchant of the Four Seasons. Petzold mentions how in this movie Fassbinder takes us to the 50’s Germany, putting emphasis on the details more that in a high-budget historical recreation.

It is in the look of the people, in the way they comment the new, in the way they decorate their houses, in the empty playing places. It is in these kind of elements you can find a lot more about the post-war Germany than in a precise historical reconstruction. Petzold used the same mechanism, using a rural place to capture the feeling of an entire city in a certain moment.


10. Stranger By The Lake (Alain Guiraudie, 2013)

Stranger By the Lake

Stranger by the Lake stands as one of the most powerful statements of the recent queer cinema. Alain Guiraudie mixes genres, making the line between an erotic love story and a thriller movie difficult to tell. In the film we can follow Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) walking around a cruising gay place around the lake.

There he meets Michel (Christophe Paou), an attractive man that hides a secret of serial killer passion. With that premise Guiraudie introduce us to a field where love and murder are closely related, where love is colder than death.

Guiraudie mentioned that before making the movie, he was reading Jean Genet’s Querelle and watching the Fassbinder movie to make sure that he wasn’t imitating the final work of the German director. Visually, at least, Stranger by the Lake stands in its own ground with the naturalistic kind of view gave to the crimes. But it is Querelle the reference where we can find this relationship of love and death made so close that they start to confuse each other.

Also we can find some Fassbinder traces in the dialogues. Franck and Michel’s relationship is always a battle of confidence and until which point they can give up the other one. This battle of power starts to get confused with the killings and evolves into a more ambiguous ground. With one of the most exciting endings of the recent cinema, Guiraudie takes a lot from the influences and merges them into an unexpectedly original mix.

Author Bio: Héctor Oyarzún is a film student in the Valparaíso University of Chile.Since he was a kid his most important occupation is watching films. He also likes punk music and playing guitar.