22 September 2004 | The_Void
Realistic and hateful; an excellent portrayal of depression
The Merchant of Four Seasons is a film about a lack of love. The film starts off with the main character; Hans Epp, returning from a spell in the foreign legion. He returns to his mother, not to be told how much she loves him, or how much she's missed him; but to be told that he is worthless and, even worse, that she would have preferred the man he went with to have come back instead. It is the character's relation to women that makes this film so hateful; the fact that his wife is taller than him is symbolic of his relation to the other gender; he is consistently humiliated by them, and it is through his relations with them that his life isn't as great as it could have been. This is also shown clearly by the way he treats his wife after a drink. He lost his job as a policeman through lust for a woman, and even his wife; a woman that is supposed to love him, never really shows any affection for him. Even at the end, his wife is more bothered about what her and her daughter will do than the state of her husband.
The Merchant of Four Seasons is a thoroughly unpleasant film. There isn't a scene in the movie where someone is happy, and not only that; but the movie seems deliriously blissful to wallow in the misery of it's central characters. The movie is certainly not recommended to anyone who is currently having a hard time, that's for sure. Despite all the misery, the film never steps out the bounds of reality; every event in this movie can - and most probably has - happened, and that only serves in making the movie more shocking. The film is, of course, helmed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder; the cult German director that committed suicide in 1982. This is only my second taste of the man's work, but through just two films, it is easy to get an idea of the type of art that he creates. Both films are downtrodden and gritty - yet realistic pieces of art. His characterization in this movie is subtle; we only ever get to know the characters through their plight's and not through their character. This is a very clever way of showing the audience that it is their surroundings that define the people in the film, not the people themselves - and as nearly everyone that sees the film knows what living in an urban society is like, it wont difficult for the majority of people to relate to.
The Merchant of Four Seasons is not a film that is easily forgettable; the movie is high on substance and low on style, and that makes for a very memorable picture, and one that everyone who considers themselves to be a fan of cinema should experience. It is with that in my mind that I give this film my highest recommendations; it's not sweet and it's not pleasant, but you will not see a more realistic portrayal of depression, and this is most certainly a movie that will stay with you.