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  • Alfred Doeblin's poignant novel must have impressed Fassbinder deeply. In an interview talking about his episodic masterpiece, Fassbinder announces, in a matter-of-fact manner, that writing the script was not difficult because he pretty much knew the book "by heart". And, indeed, we should take his words literally, considering the extent of the work and the cinematic achievement it represents. Berlin Alexanderplatz is not an easy film to watch; not because of some artistic imperfection. On the contrary, because it is a dense and tortuous, but honest, observation of the human condition, its contradictions and dark nature. Fassbinder approached this project with an open heart and a razor-sharp discipline. He knew what he wanted to recreate, and the world he conjured up captures our attention by tearing away any romanticized notion of reality. The story takes place in Berlin around the years of 1926 and 1928: Germany, at the brink of one of the darkest periods of human existence. A universe breathing betrayal at a cellular level. Murder, jealousy, perversity, hatred, maliciousness, innocence, fragility, fear, longing, guilt, embarrassment, lack of hope, evil, passion, lust, doubt, indecision, suffering, pain, sex, death, blood, insecurity, poverty, uncertainty, madness, hell, despair, surrender, shock, chaos, dirt, soul, faith, and a constant flow in a spectacle of the Shadow of the human Psyche and their intrinsic Divinity. The story is told in thirteen parts and an epilogue. It is a long cinematic experience. Mr. Fassbinder acts as a sort of Brechtian observer with a soft spot on his heart. The first part runs around 82 minutes. The next twelve which follow are about an hour-long each. The last is the epilogue that is 112 minutes of an odyssey into madness and surreal visions of the Unconscious. This last part plays like a roller-coaster ride through the past, the present and the future as we exchange empiric data in order to survive. It's a spiral descent into hell. Dante's inferno is revealed in every corner. The main character in this story is Franz Bieberkopf. He re-enters the world after a four-year sentence in the Prison of Tegel. His crime: killing his girlfriend in a fit of anger and despair. He is the anti-hero we make acquaintance with, Nietzsche's Superman in anguish. Our limitations and awe. In times of terror the arrows flow amply. Doeblin's complex narrative and Rainer's impeccable rendition outlive their creative minds. The parallels can be tracked into our times. We can only hope we have learned some lessons. The Weimar Republic was created after WWI in an attempt to establish Germany as a liberal democracy. It failed with the ascent of Adolf Hitler to power, and with the formation of the Nazi party. In 1933, the Third Reich takes over. Doeblin's narrative takes place in the last years of the Weimar Republic. Berlin Alexanderplatz is a phenomenal work of art that needs to be absorbed slowly. Fassbinder's work offers the viewer a similar involvement to reading the book. We get to spend more time with the characters and their settings. I watched one episode per day on average, but there were times I watched two on the same day. I also took breaks over the weekends, accommodating my schedule and my mood. This is undoubtedly a remarkable cinematic experience!
  • It took me over four months to finish watching Berlin Alexanderplatz that Criterion released on seven discs. As with the other two my favorite TV Series (Ingmar Bergman's "Fanny and Alexander" and "Scenes from the Marriage), Criterion deserves the highest praise for the quality of the set. I would receive a disc from Netflix, watch without stopping and then I would need a break - so intense and involving, and demanding it was. It has been said a lot about Werner Rainer Fassbinder's most opulent, magnificent, and controversial work based on the novel "Berlin Alexanderplatz" written by Alfred Döblin in 1929 that Fassbinder had known by heart and always wanted to adapt. In short, "Berlin Alexanderplatz" is a story of an ex-convict Franz Biberkopf and his attempts to lead a good honest life after he was released from the prison where he had spent four years for accidentally murdering his girlfriend in the fit of rage. Döblin's book is considered one of the most important German novels, which used the techniques similar to and is as influential as James Joyce's "Ulysses" and John Dos Passos' "Manhattan". As Joyce and Dos Passos, Doblin paints the portrait of the city that we could recognize and re-build in our imagination even if Berlin of the 1920s, the most modern city of its time does not exist anymore. Doblin also had shown how the city affects the life of a person and tears them apart.

    There could be many reasons why Fassbinder felt so strongly about the novel and always dreamt about adapting it to the screen. He was certainly fascinated by the language of the book and he took it upon himself to narrate some of the most impressive pages as the comments to the action on the screen. Perhaps the young filmmaker was attracted to Doblin's non-judgmental approach in depicting marginality of criminal life, in accepting homosexuality and bisexuality as a part of life without neither glorifying nor demonizing them. The hero of Döblin'/Fassbinder's magnum opus is a deeply flawed man, a pimp, a thief, a murderer yet childishly naive and sympathetic who wants to start a new honest life (not pimping or joining the gang of thieves) but keeps forgetting that "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Fassbinder also could have seen the similarities in the political situations in Germany of 1970 and 1930.

    I realize that 15 1/2 hours long "Berlin Alexanderplatz" can evoke very controversial emotions from the viewers but I believe it is impossible not to admit the brilliance and magnificence of the project and of the final product, which is without doubt a truly outstanding event in the history of the medium. Just to think that such enormous work had been finished in the course of 150 days, that Fassbinder took only three months to write the script, and how he'd envisioned the main players even before they could imagine they would participate in the project. It was incredibly interesting to watch the documentary about making BA. I found it symbolic that some parts of the film were shot using the earlier set decorations for Ingmar Bergman's "Serpent's Egg" which I like very much and don't agree that it was Bergman's mistake. I also see the influence Fellini might have had on Fassbinder - the scenes in the Red Light District could've came come from the Italian master's films who knew how to stage the "freak shows" and Barbara Sukowa's confession that she had looked at Fellini's "La Strada" to understand better the character of Mieze. Günter Lamprecht, Hanna Schygulla, and especially Gottfried John (who I believed had given the greatest performance in the film as one of the most mysterious villains ever on screen) all contributed their memories of the time they worked with Fassbinder on Berlin Alexanderplatz. I might have not perhaps "gotten" the whole complexity of the film and the novel it is based on but I feel greatness when I encounter it. Of all amazing 15+ hours, the final part, "My dream from the dream of Franz Biberkopf von Alfred Doeblin: An Epilogue" stands out even for Fassbinder. Rarely have I been so mesmerized and fascinated by what an artist's imagination is capable of as during the two final hours of the incredible filmmaking. The epilogue made me think that if ever a film director had lived who could have adapted to screen successfully "Divine Comedy", "The Book of Revelation", "Ulysses", and Goethe's Faust (the whole poem, not just a Margaret's affair) it was Rainer Werner Fassbinder. We lost our chance when he was gone and we would never see the likes of him again. Not often, I feel sorry that the film is over and I miss it as soon as I finish watching - it happened after the final scene of "Berlin Alexanderplatz" was over.
  • Very long (15 hours in all), very worth seeing. Based on Alfred Doeblin's novel of the same name, "Berlin Alexanderplatz" is set in and around Berlin during the Weimar Republic era, the decade immediately preceding the establishment Hitler's Third Reich in 1933.

    The workers of '20s Berlin are taking it on the chin. Mass unemployment reigns alongside the greed of the landlord and capitalist classes. People are reacting and acting in various ways to survive. As usual, some of the unemployed turn to crime; others to prostitution. Most of the film's cast will see the dawn of the "thousand year Reich" with their eyes only half way open.

    But life must go on and it will go on and it does go on in Berlin during Weimar. It's an exciting time as well, a time when the puritanism of the countryside is being exchanged for a chance to live free and wild in a sleepless city chock full of cabarets and kniepe. Of course, the Nazis didn't like this and neither did their supporters, the conservative majorities of rural Germany.

    As the film's director,R.W. Fassbinder put it,Doeblin's novel,BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ, "offered a precise characterization of the twenties; for anyone who knows what came of all that, it's fairly easy to recognize the reasons that made the average German capable of embracing his National Socialism."

    All this turmoil and potential for explosive change are seen by the audience of "Berlin Alexanderplatz" through the eyes of one guy, Franz Biberkopf. Walk, ride, rob, love, drink and despair with Franz Biberkopf. Best bring along a case or two of good lager while you're immersing yourself in the prelude to "Gotterdamerung".
  • The most unique contribution of film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder to Alfred Döblin's novel "Berlin Alexanderplatz. The story of Franz Biberkopf" (1929) was his interpretation of the relationship between Franz Biberkopf and Reinhold as a love story. Therefore, in Fassbinder's interpretation, Franz Biberkopf's accident is seen as self-mutilation. In Fassbinder's last movie, Querelle (1982), we will hear the confession: "To kiss a man is like the confrontation with one's own face in the mirror". As different as Döblin's "Alexanderplatz" and Genet's "Querelle" may be, the two novels are alike because they meet one another like an object and its mirror image: the first novel deals with the good-guy Franz Biberkopf who is ruined by his love to humankind, and the other novel with the immoral murderer Querelle by which those who love him, perish.

    Like many of Fassbinder's movies, "Berlin Alexanderplatz", too, shows clear autobiographical traces. Fassbinder said about the three protagonists Franz, Reinhold and Mieze: "All three together supply my chance to survive". As Fassbinder pointed out in his article "The cities of the human and his soul", unlike Döblin in his original novel, Fassbinder is not so much interested in the discovery of the outer reality of Berlin, but concentrates on their inhabitants. "Berlin Alexanderplatz" is a journey into the souls of different people under the conviction that the reign of subjectivity of the inner realities is much bigger than the reign of the objective reality outside. As a matter of fact (as has been pointed out by several commentators), "Berlin Alexanderplatz" with its almost 100 roles gave Fassbinder the possibility to let appear in his movie practically every person who had been crucial in his own life. That he split himself over three persons (Franz, Reinhold, Mieze) is very typical in Fassbinder's work in which many persons have their Alter Egos (e.g., "Despair", 1977). As Fassbinder had pointed out in an interview: "Despair is the only condition of life that I can accept". Consistently, the movie shows the systematic destruction of Franz, since "he is an anarchical figure in a crowd of social beings, and in the end, he perishes because of that". In fifteen and half an hour, we can analyze "the constellations, how a human spoils his life by a certain incapability which he developed by his upbringing" (Fassbinder). The movie shows the shaping of Franz Biberkopf to a mentally destroyed but therefore useful member of society. Every connoisseur of Fassbinder's work will be remembered to the final scene of "Fear of Fear" (1975) in which Margot, after having been "cured" in a psychiatric clinic, types addresses on envelopes like a trained monkey. When Karli brings her the information that their neighbor, the depressive Mr. Bauer, has killed himself, she hardly recognizes this fact anymore telling to Karli that she is feeling fine.
  • I think it's a perfect crime that this epic of human behavior has been neglected by German audiences. Even here on IMDb the people commenting on it are from various parts all over the wold but not from Germany. This is mostly due to the fact that "Berlin Alexanderplatz" was aired only once in 1980, under not very becoming conditions (it was a very bad copy of the original 16mm print that was much too dark for once), and then quickly thrown on the garbage heap of television-history. In the US for instance, Berlin Alexanderplatz was shown in cinemas and the association of American film critics at the end of the 80ies placed Günther Lamprecht under the top three actors of it's time, just behind Robert de Niro and Ben Kingsley. Figure that. Still the Germans go on saying that the Americans are mere barbarians when it comes to art. Thanks to "Süddeutsche Zeitung" and the people responsible for the quite expensive restoration-process of the series we now have a DVD and can watch the somnambulic masterpiece in all of it's original glory. It's the spiraling downfall of one man in a big Leviathan of a city, hard to swallow for most who rely on the silver or small screen for escapist entertainment. I just wish that today for every "Lost", "24" or "Profiler/CSI"-series there would at least be one "Berlin Alexanderplatz".
  • Berlin Alexanderplatz is by far the most ambitious film of all time. It has a very unusual feel to it as it slips between the real world and the mental state of Franz Biberkopf (particularly when he relives again and again the crime which landed him in prison). Of special interest to film addicts who have not seen the movie is the final 90 minutes which evidently was Fassbinder's own filmed fantasy of the entire plot, done with a background picture of Hieronymus Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights." A fabulous richly-detailed film, but some may not be able to get past the politics.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Nothing can be more melodramatic than German melodrama, particularly that of the beginning of the 20th century. Franz Biberkopf's story is such a deep, thick and sickening melodrama and Fassbinder makes it so dense, so heavy that we are totally overwhelmed by this hardening cast-plaster, a melodrama contained between Biberkopf's release from the prison where he has spent four years for killing his girlfriend, Ida, to the end of his life as a concierge in some factory after the trial in which he is a witness against the accused, his friend Reinhold who had assassinated Franz's last girl friend Mieze, after he was released from the mental institution to which he had been committed after the crime. Biberkopf is the perfect victim who is ready to do anything he is asked to do by the people he considers his friends at the moment of the request. He is totally dependent on women and at the same time reveals he is very particular about them and actually loves only very few. Eva of course, his permanent love who lives with a rich Herbert and carries his child for a few months. Ida, who he killed out of rage one morning. And Wieze who will be killed by Reinhold. The second characteristic of Franz Biberkopf is that he has the brain of a beaver, as his name implies. He is not very swift but he is faithful and he can suffer anything from his friends, though at times he may be taken, over by a fit of rage that makes him blind and murderous, though he can easily be stopped. But to survive in Germany in 1928-29 he is doing what he can, anything he comes across: selling newspapers, including the Nazi newspaper, selling erotic literature, selling shoelaces, being part of a gang of thieves, and being a pimp. Then the whole story is nothing but details of a sad ,life that can only be sad. Fassbinder makes it so dense, so packed with hefty details and events that we don't see the thirteen episode flying by. And yet the masterpiece of this long series is the epiloque. Then Fassbinder describes what is happening in Biberkopf's mind after his seizure of insanity when he realizes his Mieze was killed by his supposedly best friend who had caused him to lose an arm when this Reinhold had tried to kill him, the infamous Reinhold. In this epilogue, Fassbinder becomes the most baroque, or even rococo, of all screen artists you can imagine. He brings Biberkopf down into the deranged world of his insanity. He is cruder than Bosh, crueler than Goya, and he depicts the physical dereliction to which Biberkopf is reduced in that mental institution, the haughty condescending carelessness of doctors and personnel, and the haunted mind of his. And in this haunted nightmare he experiences, Fassbinder shows how he is tortured by Reinhold and a few others who have used him in life, how he is tortured by both his lubricity and his refusal to acknowledge it, how he is physically tormented in all kinds of cruel physical punishments repeated ad eternam, a vision of hell borrowed from Dante of course. The point here is that Biberkopf will come out of the institution when he reaches some personal peace in that insanity, in no way the consciousness of his own victimization, but a dull taming of his inner world into a senseless, meaningless and emotionless routine that will transform him into a faithful and reliable concierge looking after cars, lost and abandoned forever in his blessed solitude of the body and the soul. This epilogue is luxuriant and so dense that we just wonder how it could go on like that, over and over again, each situation of victimization opening onto another as naturally as a door you push open and drop closed behind you. Sickening and thickening at the same time, so that you feel totally buried in that grossness and in that cruelty. You are becoming Biberkopf and at the same time the torturing insanity because Biberkopf appears to you as deserving his fate, his insanity, hence your scourges and your violence. It is amazing at this moment to see how Fassbinder manages to make you be a double voyeur and transport you both into Biberkopf himself who cannot rebel in spite of you inhabiting him with the justification to rebel, and thus into the torturing insanity to punish him for not rebelling or to incite him to rebel. The only film-maker Fassbinder can compete with in this perverse mediatic transfer is Clive Barker in his early films or in his Hellraiser series, except that Fassbinder adds an ancient Greek dimension to that delirium that is vital since it will lead Biberkopf to surviving in a mixture of the International, patriotic sings and emerging Nazi military rites, rituals and marching beating tempos.

    Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
  • This mega-movie is an expressionist, modernist masterpiece that combines the best of Wellesian cinema (expressionistic) with Godardian cinema (modernist). The (Godardian) voice-over snatches of random news items and medical health items (referenced in the prior 'review') are simply being faithful to Dobler's novel, which is a somewhat Germanic version of Joyce's Ulysses. But instead of the Joycian modernist take on the travels of Odysseus, Dobler's novel presented us with a modernist take on the Passion Play.

    This film is not for simpletons. Just like a long, great novel… there will be stretches that will bore you a bit… and other stretches that are riveting and will break your heart.

    Two major points:

    1) Don't get too caught up with what some people see as a form of homo-eroticism between Franz Biberkopf and Reinhold. Although expressionistic, Fassbinder has presented the material with enough objectivity that different people will come away with different subtexts. Fassbinder has explained the film as a love story between Franz and Reinhold… but Fassbinder was bisexual.

    Franz is a grown up naive child. One could easily see Franz's 'curiosity' about Reinhold as a longing for an absent father. Eva, the one constant in Franz's life, could represent his longing for an absent/replacement mother/big sister/protector. How else to explain Franz's reluctance to mate with her?

    2) The two-hour epilogue contains an extended surrealistic pastiche that upsets 90% of the people who like the previous (more realistic) 13 hours.

    Biberkopf's brain snaps like a twig! How better to explain the mixture of chemicals… the bad cocktail suddenly coursing through his head? It's brilliant in it's off-puttingness! Bad cocktails don't taste good! Some people don't understand how Lou Reed and Kraftwerk can be on the soundtrack when Franz (in insane delirium) is living in 1928:

    People… that's what they call 'modernist'. That's what they call… 'expressionist'. Were you expecting Robert Flaherty in a Fassbinder film?

    Epilogue: See the film. If THE DECALOGUE is the great cinematic short story collection… BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ is the great cinematic novel.
  • This is my third time through, the first having been at its US theatrical release in the early 1980's and the second on video cassette in 1994. The new DVD set confirms my feeling this is the best work of performance in German since Wagner's Ring.

    I am put in a trance by the mise-en-scene, the obsessive repetition of themes and variations in music, narrative, visual detail, camera angle, color coordination.

    This elegy to the Age of Reason, the illusion of progress, the delusions of civilization, to my way of seeing, killed its creator and left us with a paradox: How can a work so pessimistic of our primacy as animals prove so conclusively the very primacy it refutes?
  • artihcus02214 August 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ is the stuff of legend. It was unavailable(until recently), mythical(and still is) and talked about with awe and mystery(and will continue to do so). It is adapted from a modern German classic by Alfred Doblin(a close friend of Bertolt Brecht) and it is set in the decade of the peak of German Modernism, a modernism that was irrevocably separated from the post-war Germany by 15 years of war and slaughter. The one single attempt by the greatest artist of post-war Germany to bridge the gap was a 15hour film, divided into 13 chapters and one epilogue, broadcast on television but crafted and composed with the most beautiful, most refined, most political language that cinema is capable of. BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ is a real thing of beauty on the small screen but on the big cinema it would be something else, a prodigal son returning to his father's welcoming arms.

    Fassbinder claimed that Alfred Doblin wasn't especially interested in the Alexanderplatz(Berlin's key commercial district which lapsed to East Germany in the Cold War), the lives on the street came through the descriptions of the refuges in which the character's lived. The 14 episodes are minutely detailed observations and recreations of places - apartments, bars, offices, restaurants.

    Franz Biberkopf(Gunther Lamprecht) is the most tormented character in film history since Chaplin's Tramp or even Vivien Leigh's Blanche DuBois, he is punished by society and worse he punishes himself abjectly. The spectacle of misery and horror is given tender beauty and rare generosity by the director and the actor. People still laugh, they still tell jokes, they still have sex and they have their beer and schnapps but each person he meets will point their thumbs down the road to death. Some do it by direct cruelty, others do it by the equally subtle cruelty of friendship and love. Fassbinder said that love is the most insidious form of social repression, yet he also longed for the unconditional love that human beings are capable of, even if in his world this love leads to death and madness. This longing is clear in the touching performance of Barbara Sukowa's Mieze, who is dressed up as a ballerina yet is realistically attuned with her status as a prostitute and of Franz's status as her pimp. It also manifests itself in the perplexing relationship between Franz and Reinhold(Gottfried John), two doubles who from their very first sight are drawn to each other and bound in soul though never in body. When Mieze enters the story, the triangle is complete and the stage is set for the apocalyptic finish.

    This isn't a lot of plot for a 15hour film yet watching the film one can't say that that the film is too long. This is an epic film, a film that has to be lived in, to understand the characters. We have to feel the apartment and sad corridors. We have to feel these refuges as tactile presences if we are to understand the world of these characters - the Germany of the late 20s which is well on its way to the collective hysteria that installed Hitler and his gang in office and plunged the world into the most cataclysmic event of the last 100 years. This Germany of the 20s was of course shown in films like DOKTOR MABUSE, PANDORA'S BOX and of course in the key reference for Fassbinder, Murnau's DER LETZTE MANN. Fassbinder summons up the feel of the 20s despite limited sets and a tight schedule. One feels the despair and hysterical fury which is implied in those films but brought out into the open in this film.

    Fassbinder encompasses diverse, eclectic visual styles, for this film he limits himself to the naturalistic approach he displayed in earlier films like EFFI BRIEST or ALI, the exception is an alley of brothels in Episode 7 which has the artificiality of a Brecht production and of course the famous epilogue. Structurally, the early episodes of BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ(up to Episode 6 when Franz loses his arm) play as single pieces while the later episodes work better when seen end-to-end. The final four hours of Alexanderplatz(Episodes 13, 14 and Epilogue) add up to a single whole. As a standalone piece the best part is Episode 4(A Handful of People in the Depths of Silence - A perfect subtitle for the film) where the tender warmth and compassion between Franz and Baumann(Gerhard Zwerenz) as well as the lyrical and poetic narrative employed in that episode(anticipating Franz's breakdown in the epilogue) creates the effect of a powerful music piece.

    The joy of BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ, and I use joy without irony in talking of this sad and unhappy story, comes from the mere presence of the actors, all of them players in Fassbinder's stock company(the finest repertory since the death of John Ford) show up in this film. We see Gunther Lamprecht at first, a bit player in previous films given the role of a lifetime here, we see Brigitte Mira as the non-judgmental Frau Bast, a role written for her. Then there are the ladies, a honour roll that encompasses Hanna Schygulla(in one of her best performances), Karin Baal, Barbara Sukowa, a one scene cameo by Irm Hermann and finally just when you thought someone is missing in flies Margit Carstensen as an angel clad in golden tights in the Epilogue. Among the men, we have Gunther Kauffmann, Volker Spengler, Gottfried John(whose intense schemers in the early films seem to have fused into making Reinhold Hoffmann the most scary presence in German Cinema since Murnau's NOSFERATU) and Fassbinder's friend the novelist Gerhard Zwerenz who plays the small but unforgettable role of Baumann.

    Above them is Rainer Werner Fassbinder(who appears with his angels in a one-shot cameo in the epilogue) whose vision achieves a clarity and a vitality bearing the weight of an artist at the height of his powers.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Now that the holy grail of modern film is on DVD, finally and firmly in hand, we can take a close look at that thing called "Berlin Alexanderplatz." The famous Fassbinder shot is used throughout—actors revealed in hot lights through darkened doorways; as well as the ever present vertical lines slicing the screen like prison bars. Much of the film is shot with internal framing techniques, and when not, there is the broad expanse of Franz Biberkopf's apartment—a loft-like, two-level stage where threatening lights are constantly pulsating. Berlin Alexanderplatz may be a 15½ hour film, but it is played out theatre-style in Fassbinder's mental proscenium. In the heart of Berlin we wander with Franz, cages within cages, where realpolitik takes a back seat to survival. A crass, capitalistic jungle where more than 600,000 people have been thrown out of work in a matter of months (1928), is home to whores, pimps and thieves who have plenty to eat and drink. Our hero, Franz Biberkopf, fondly reminisces about Rosa Luxemburg. But this Berlin is not the workers' paradise that the great social revolutionary dreamed of and was then executed for. Is that perhaps her secret, broken down printing press in the middle of Franz's apartment, never touched or even casually mentioned? Fassbinder and Franz seem to reject all politics, left or right, and abandon themselves instead to the Weimar melodrama of instant gratification and the much replayed nightmare of a horrific crime. After our hero careens out of prison, where he has spent four years paying for the murder of his hooker-girlfriend Ida, he stays as drunk as possible, and despite his vow to live a good and upstanding life, draws into his orbit a string of women who love him obsessively and whore for him happily. His life force is irresistible, but he'd rather make his own, if clumsy, way. Franz soon finds himself in the ridiculous position of hawking a Nazi pamphlet he does not care about, the "Beobachter," while his socialist friends watch on in horror. That is, his socialist friends who are well connected to the local crime lord, Herr Pums, and are eager to have Franz join in on their sub-capitalist, black market enterprises. And then, as destined, Franz meets his soul-mate and nemesis, Reinhold. The ensemble acting of Berlin Alexanderplatz is miraculous, as is the iron grip Fassbinder had on his material. Günter Lamprecht as Franz truly does inhabit one of the screens all time great characters. The canvas is gigantic and his plodding, bearish performance with roller-coaster peaks and valleys often turns on the dime. Likewise, Gottfried Johns' Reinhold is Franz's seductive, sexy, utterly nefarious foil. All the women are memorable, especially Barbara Sukowa, Hanna Schygulla and Elisabeth Trissennaar. Don't miss the outrageously costumed Frau Pums (Lilo Pempeit), who also happens to be Fassbinder's real-life mother. We've waited 25 years to revisit Fassbinder's great Passion Play, Berlin Alexanderplatz. Definitely not for the squeamish, but rejoice and spread the word. P.S. The epilogue, which bothered me in 1983, has fully redeemed itself. It's not just a director indulging in every fantasy of his alter ego, but an earnest, if unfettered, look at Biberkopf's mind flying apart. Fassbinder ties the huge story up neatly and gives Hanna Schygulla's Eva some fantastic scenes in the process.
  • Saw in theatre on release, and the many-VHS set, and to this day still rank it unquestionably among top 10 of all time (even with the sometimes overly heavy Fassbinder spin).

    The duration permits a whole new level of dramatic depth, as well as a story with many small and one big arc. Acting, music, photography, dialog - all a treat. Ending is love-it-or-hate-it (I didn't hate it).

    Subtitles are about 75% legible on video, and were about 90% discernible in the theatre. Audio was often very loud - comes out kind of 'harsh' - wasn't as bad in the theatre.

    After each several 'episodes' you'll have to go for a walk (equally so for the legs and the psyche)!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Whew! I feel like I just climbed a mountain with this one! This is certainly one of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's seminal works. I think it's key to understanding his worldview, and to understanding the director as a human being. After all, years before he made this movie, he named another character Franz Biberkopf, the hero of Fox and His Friends. Of course, Fassbinder himself, in the biggest acting role of his career, played Biberkopf in that film. I assume he must have seen himself in Alfred Döblin's protagonist. Having now watched Berlin Alexanderplatz, I find that extremely sad. The challenge of Berlin Alexanderplatz is not exactly its length – heck, I've watched 24 episodes of Lost in half the time it took me to watch this series. It's the unpleasantness of the characters, particularly Franz Biberkopf. At the opening of the series, he is being released from prison after four years for beating his girlfriend to death in a rage. It's a moment we relive via flashback about a dozen more times in the next 15 hours, including at least one episode where it plays out twice and another where nearly the same scenario is played out with another woman. Biberkopf says he wants to stay clean from now on, but it only takes a short while before he's involved again with criminals. The main brunt of the story concerns Biberkopf's dealings with his new friend Reinhold, a gigolo and a burglar. There was never a moment in the series when I was thinking that Franz Biberkopf was at heart a good guy. No, he's a coward. He's a jerk. He's a big fat baby. Fassdbinder asks us to feel for him almost constantly. Even if he was being ironic, and I don't think he was, I couldn't appreciate that. I knew from the start that things were going to end badly. Even worse, about halfway through the series, Franz's eternal protectress, Eva, throws him a bone in the form of a young innocent named Sonia. Immediately, Franz says, "You don't look like a Sonia. I'm going to rename you Mieze." And he treats women that shabbily throughout the film, though Mieze is the last one. As soon as such a sweet and innocent character enters the picture, I knew she was bound to end up dead. To add to these often painfully ugly characters, Fassbinder also likes to make the series purposefully annoying with grainy photography and a cacophonous musical score. There are far too many scenes of endless dialogue, often so esoteric that it becomes meaningless babble (this is supposedly part of the point of Döbin's novel, but I never felt the point was made that well in this series). In short, Fassbinder wants to make this series torture to sit through. And the two hour epilogue, which enters Biberkopf's dementia-ridden mind, feels so much different from the strict realism of the rest of the series that it feels like a miscalculation. So it's a difficult watch, to be sure. But I do think it's a good series overall. Like I said, it provides valuable insights into Fassbinder's character. The cinematic prowess of the director is also on full display most of the time. Best of all, if you're one who loves great acting, you very well might experience some bits of heaven amidst the ordeal. Günter Lamprecht leads the cast, and is simply amazing. Gottfried John is Reinhold, Barbara Sukowa is Mieze and Hannah Schygulla is Eva. Franz Buchreiser plays Meck, who begins the series as Franz's closest friend and then is shoved away, has the only moment in the series that made me feel deeply for any of the characters. This was one of my longest-awaited viewings. It was a disappointment, overall, but it was worth my time.
  • bernardrmartin22 October 2008
    Inconsistent (morally), perfunctory (in some of the staging), brilliant (in most if not all of the acting), inconclusive, anachronistic... but enough of Cervantes, Shakespeare, Brecht and Dickens... Yes it does rank with them. The film makes the book seem almost hesitant, tentative; Doeblin's debt to Joyce all too obvious. But the film has an almost 'punk' bloody-mindedness about it, like a fanzine. Strong-flavoured sauce splashed over chips. And although 'epic' ( in the Brechtian sense, not the Cecil B de Mille) it has shape like a Mahler symphony has shape - not a simple arc but a scratty, jumbly progress through a crowd that gets you there ... As for central character Franz - played as Der Dumme Michel rather than the devious weasel of the book - he's the one to whom learning is so often offered but who is so incapable of embracing it. Fassbinder makes us care to try to understand the person whom we would move away from so rapidly in the Kneipe. This is simply one of the (many) cultural pinnacles of the 20th Century. Thanks to Channel 4 for introducing it to us 20-odd years ago and thanks to Second Sight who has published it on DVD. Buy it! Make time and enjoy it!
  • Fassbinder purportedly stated that Alfred Doblin's "Berlin Alexanderplatz" saved his life as a youth. Fassbinder revered the novel, and had planned for years to film it. Like so much of the director's work, "Berlin Alexanderplatz" is a deeply personal project for Fassbinder. In many respects, this film is as much about Fassbinder as it is about Doblin's novel, with the director's conflicted sexuality, as well as his lifelong exposure to the seedier fringe of German society, unfolding nakedly on screen. This is a story about the impossibility of moral idealism in a broken society. It is a story about the price of love and redemption, as well as a parable of Post WWI Germany. It is the deepest, most complex love story I've seen, and the acting is impeccable. I will never forget the characters in this film, and watching them develop over the picture's 15 1/2 hour running time was a treasure. Franz Biberkopf (the main character) is as fundamental as Faust, The Tramp, or Charles Foster Kane. He is a part of everyone. Although a daunting untertaking, "Berlin Alexanderplatz" is totally worth it. This is Fassbinder's Magnum Opus; one of the towering monuments of German Cinema, as well as one of the most immaculate literary adaptations ever completed. It is a bold, strange, and confident work from the heart; a enduring footprint of Fassbinder's genius and the high water mark of the German New Wave. This film was aired in 1980. Two years later, Fassbinder would be dead. Had he survived, even to middle age....The possibilities challenge imagination. ---|--- Reviews by Flak Magnet
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Watching Berlin Alexanderplatz was the pursuit of a week and a half, after which I read James Joyce's "Ulysses," all the Psalms, a selected portion of "War and Peace," and a biography of Robert Wiene (who directed "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari"), all of which heavily inform this cinematic novel, a true German gem.

    While you may have been told that this is a love story, it is more apt to say that it is a "curiosity story," stressing the classic dichotomoy of Apollonian and Dionysian tendencies in art. Fassbinder's narrative bristles with the dissonance of a Schoenberg composition, jumbling Franz and Reinhold's investigation of love with an undermentioned aspect of this film, its subtle portrayal of the roots of the German Brutalist ascetic.

    With almost 100 roles, "Berlin Alexanderplatz" is like a confession from Fassbinder to the world, showing us how many ways the human experience can unfold.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Jazzy11's review is spot on. He said, very succinctly, many of the same things that had occurred to me as I watched.

    One area that seems to need to be explored better, though, is Fassbinder's near Nostradamus like vision of the eventual hegemony of the western powers/NATO alliance. Naturally, this is quite evident in this particular version, but it's all there in the source material too. There is even a hint at the neo-conservative movement and preemptive war doctrine of that came to preeminence at the end of the 20th century and actually took root during the Bush administration. Both on a literal and symbolic level, the message is unmistakable.

    Watching any version of "Berlin-Alexanderplatz" simply reinforces, to the acute viewer, that we are all part of a wondrous mystery filled with universal truths that were prescient then and prescient now.
  • Easy! Or, it was for me. The first time I saw this film, was in New York, before the DVD was released. I was enchanted and mesmerized from the first reel! Admittedly, I am a Fassbinder fanatic, but I don't think the film requires the viewer to be one? However, in my opinion, it is a bit like watching a 16 hour amalgam of every Fassbinder film rolled into one gigantic series (there are bits reminiscent of his early work, Katzelmacher, etc. The mid period Sirk inspired "sturmdramas" The Merchant of Four Seasons, Fear Eats the Soul and even a hint at what his last film Querelle would be like. It's all there!). When they played the full series in Manhattan (I think you could watch two hours of it at a time?)...it played a few weeks w/other Fassbinder films...but I was there to watch THIS! I could have watched eight hours of it a day! The first day I went with my girlfriend at the time and a friend of mine. After the first part, my girlfriend dropped out (we broke up about a week after, I don't know if this filmic marathon (& my Fassbinder obsession) played a part? If it did?...Fassbinder won! and I'd do it again?). Naturally, she refused to go with me to the second part-but my friend hung in there-so we went. It was about an hour and a half into this viewing that my friend dropped out...people were dropping like flies, at the mercy of this magnum opus! I was still enchanted and could have watched another full eight hours! Well, my friends, I sat in that theater alone and watched the rest of the movie all by myself. I never found the film boring or dull, lagging or drab in any way. I simply watched, could not STOP watching; mesmerized and absorbed in the brilliance of this work. I even cried at the end...poor, poor Franz Biberkopf. I only mention the above because: this is clearly NOT a film for everyone. Hardly... I was elated when I heard Criterion was going to release this cinematic marvel to DVD. Like a sick junkie I was: shaking, sweating and fidgety while I anticipated the release of this new restoration of the original 16mm print(!), the drool fell and hung from my lips as I waited for "the day". Finally, it was released...it had a steep price tag, but like any junkie I was willing to rob and steal to get my 'fix'! Folks, it did NOT disappoint! Criterion did a brilliant, monumental...a miraculous job of restoring this film. In fact, I barely recognized it as the film I watched in the theater...it looked THAT much better! The one I saw was gray, washed out and kinda muddy looking. But this...wow! The colors actually pop...the focus is crystal clear...it's never TOO dark (as I remember parts were), it is miraculous what they have done! And you should ALL consider yourselves VERY lucky to have this re-shined gem to view and review. I highly doubt there will be a Fassbinder retrospective anytime soon? This is the next best thing! For those who like film and novels, this may be just the 'fix' you're looking for? Because, to me anyway, I always felt this the best combination of the two art forms. It is a film, a TV series, certainly and doesn't cheat you out of a cinematic experience and yet you can get just as absorbed and involved in the characters and their lives as you would a really fine novel. This is just plain brilliant film making! Not a wrong note or shot or performance in the whole thing: IN ALL 16 hours! That alone boggles the mind, but that Fassbinder (a mere man-?) was also able to create, construct and organize this masterpiece; on a television budget, at break-neck speed and on 16mm no less is enough to blow what's left of that mind! To me, there is no question: if there are geniuses of modern cinema? Fassbinder (or his 'spirit'anyway?) sits at the top of the pile! So...Do yourselves a favor and watch this film...whether you get as 'hooked' on it as I did. Gobbling the thing up, biting, ripping off and eating whole parts as you drool from your lips like some obese monster at Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas; or throw the whole thing into a tuna can like Billie Holiday, cook it up, suck it up in a giant syringe and inject the full series directly into your veins, like a sick slobbering junkie drooling over his fix in a shooting gallery; watching it in one sitting...or whether you slowly savor every nuance, brilliant shot,camera movement, Fassbinder's hypnotic narration, the spellbinding story and brilliant top notch acting: like a gourmet food critic or sniffing, swilling and looking at it through the sun like some high brow fine wine taster. No matter how you watch it...watch it! It's well worth the time and money... I'm telling you you're not gonna find anything this good on TV or the cinema these days...not a chance!
  • "BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ" (Fassbinder, Germany,1980).

    "We are too miserable for be unhappy".

    Charles Bukowsky

    The first thing is that person, that comes out from about four years prison: He is Franz Biberkopf (A Superb!!! Günter Lamprecht). He has now to continue in the outside word jail, but now alone. He holds in the chest a guilty wound which seeks to cover with alcohol, prostitutes and disposable women from another main character Reinhold Hoffman (Gottfried John) a psychopath guy with a tin layer of lamb. Fassbinder was fascinated with this two characters, Franz and Reinhold, form Alfred Döbling's novel about the same name, manly because by their latent homosexuality, which was clearly the only explanation of a friendship highly unlikely in other circumstances. Franz Biberkopf murdered his woman, almost without notice, at least the first blow. She cried; face him, hoping that he could do something, in the positive side of a couple mood. But Franz is far away of the emotional side of the brain, and cannot continue shaving himself, with one of those blades that seemed swords of cavalry, and as in a reflex movement, he cut a pit what it cannot handle, like a dermal bump. That act of despicable impulsively, transforms him into a paralyzed being by the possibility of the evil within. Germany is just through an economical crisis after of the First World War. There is a great economic depression, and a lonely man is only under his skin. It is an animal sentimental, but at the same time explosives. In his life stop by different women, but remains, as an angel love, Eva (Hanna Schygulla), which appear like a friend that is in love with him, but is living with a wealthy man. The other woman the he is love with is Mieze (Emilie "Mieze" Karsunke, by a young Barbara Sukowa, that was directed to act like Gelsomina, a Giulieta Massina's character in "La Strada" – 1956. F. Fellini). After all, Franz Biberkof is without job, a pimp sometimes, because he loose one of his arms after to be betrayed by Reinhold, once. Subsequent to being released from jail, he strides, slips, falls from one stretch of his life to the next. He wants to be honest, but circumstances, "bar friends", enroll him again in merchandise robbery, and is betrayed by his companions, not one but several times. He is not allowed to have nothing not even love. Men like Biberkopf are everywhere, are the "Nowhere Man" of The Beatles song. They are just like floating corpses going in the current direction, the flood is their highway, doesn't matter were heading to. The editing and restoration of this film of 15 and a half hours, it was possible thanks to The Criterion Collection. The film was divided into six DVDs with 13 chapters, an epilogue to 2 hours and disk extras. The film, by extension, was shown on television, breaking record of viewers and inaugurated with much and inadvertently, the phenomenon of serial tale. That repeated after with Twin Picks of David Lynch, with decorum. Thanks Reine W. Fassbinder by "Berlin Alexanderplatz" and by all the other wonderful and master pieces that you created!!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Following the critics I had a great expectation about this movie. After seen some episodes, on DVD television version, I was boredom. The development is linear and it is impossible to get any real insight about Germany on years 20. Despite Germany depression after WWI there were a lot of livid cabaret, as Weil and Bretch show us, but the music for the movie is unbearable, maybe this was the Director intention move spectator from the comfort through a limited music and dark photography. The main character Franz is too psychotic as the women around him too. I enjoyed "M Dusseldorf Vampire" , a Fritz Lang masterpiece and which tell us more about the Germans fear before WWII than this long Fassbinder. The high is the photography, most of it on small room on dark scenes.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ************ SPOILERS ************

    I don't know that this review will really contain any spoilers or not, because I don't really think there's much to spoil. The structure of the story is very episodic and repetitive and nothing much happens. Instead, a lot of figurative cud chewing is done on what little does concretely happen. In any event, I'm not going to hold back in this review, so I might conceivably spoil something.

    This story is about a guy named Franz. The story is: 1) he gets out of prison (for murdering his girlfriend in a stupid drunken rage), 2) he bums around on the street and gets drunk a lot, 3) he meets a guy named Reinhold, 4) he joins a gang of petty gangsters, 5) his best buddy Reinhold pushes him out of the back of a moving car and he loses his arm when another car runs over it, 6) he bums around and gets drunk some more, 7) he goes mad and hallucinates for a long time in a mental hospital. And there's a closing scene in a courtroom where Franz (supposedly recovered from his mental illness) gives testimony that gets his best buddy Reinhold off with a light sentence for killing one of Reinhold's girlfriends.

    This is the plot as near as I can make it out. I apologize if it's not completely accurate. Fatigue and disgust prevent me from viewing another minute of this interminable nausea-fest.

    Maybe I should say at this juncture that I've never really "gotten" any of Fassbinder's films. Perhaps I'm just too locked into a breeder mentality, I don't know. Also, there might be a lot of historical and cultural information encoded here that's specific to Germany between the wars that I can't appreciate.

    Anyway, the relationship between Franz and Reinhold is the key feature of the story, everything else revolves around it. Franz is kind of a happy, dim-witted Homer Simpson type guy. And Reinhold is kind of a twisted, compulsive, neurotic guy given to spasms of intense misogyny.

    So the whole thing, to me, was just one long, dreary, alcoholic, ugly, perverse circus of horrors. There was no particular plot, the characters were merely repellent, and not in the least engaging. And the dialog seemed fairly dull and pedestrian. Franz was prone to loud, expansive public orations, but they just seemed to be the rantings of a dim-witted drunkard.

    It's not clear what the film maker (or the novelist, Alfred Doblin) were trying to show here. That drunken petty criminals had a hard time on the streets of Berlin during the period between the wars? I have a feeling that what was being reached for was a lot more evident in the novel. But I'm not sure I'll take the time to investigate it, though.

    And the misogyny in this mini-series is just totally grotesque and sickening. One memorable sequence is when Reinhold is trying to rid himself of his latest girlfriend (that's one of his problems, you see, he compulsively goes after women, and then, as soon as he gets one, he immediately detests her), and he hurls verbal abuse at her out of the blue and starts beating her and telling her to leave. When he finally succeeds in driving her out, he's frothing at the mouth. And then he says to another friend who has witnessed his performance: "Franz would be so proud of me!" He says this because prior to this, Reinhold had convinced Franz to take his ex-girlfriends off his hands. This is a key element of the plot, Reinhold's girlfriend problems. Real believable, easily empathizable stuff, huh?

    And on a different note: I thought it was quaint, in a very jarring way, to have 60's and 70's pop music playing in the background on the soundtrack during some of the hallucination sequences. A couple of the songs I recognized where by the Velvet Underground, "Candy Says", for example. Since the story takes place in the late 1920's, I believe, this was very disorienting to me. Also, we are treated to Fassbinder himself leering at Franz, and into the camera, for a few minutes, standing beside the two angels (dressed like Roman legionnaires, for some reason) that are visiting Franz during one of his hallucinations.

    Here's another little tidbit. At the end of a number of scenes, random news items and medical health items are read in voice over. These tend to be very bland and cold and impersonal. How this reflects on the story, I'm not completely sure. Those were cold, hard times in Berlin to be suffering through during that era? Modernity does have its downsides, that's for sure.

    The general overall feel of this mini-series was like a combination of old Eliot Ness "Untouchables" TV shows combined with boring out-takes from David Lynch's "Blue Velvet".

    I wouldn't recommend this mini-series to anyone. The amount of time I spent studying it, I feel, was completely wasted.
  • jones-pat09610 November 2012
    I got the series after watching Heimat and really enjoying that. Many of those who reviewed that series recommended this. So I bought it. What a mistake. This has no story and it is a long self indulgent film. It is depressing and does not even provide a useful and interesting background to the German Weimar period. And as one reviewer pointed out, it was difficult to believe that the 'anti-hero', could ever attractive a woman. Never mind having a number of beautiful young women falling over him!

    If you want to be depressed go for it. But as someone whose mother spent time in Germany at the same period. This film is a very poor representation of life in the 1930's.
  • Craig_133714 October 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    I understand where Jazzy11 is coming from with the Schoenberg reference, as I had, at several points during the film, noticed that it had a certain thoroughly modern, narrative dissonance which at times was uncomfortable but was always challenging. I also found the metastructure of this epic work can be seen abstractedly as a simple meditation on neo-materialism that hints at man's alienation, not in the dogmatic Engels-Marxist economic sense, but in terms of the post-modern idea of man's alienation from place, in this case Alexanderplatz, Berlin.

    A true masterpiece!
  • I could write and write about this series - like, take notes for every 'part' or episode - but then it wouldn't be accepted in these IMDb comments. Suffice to say, Fassbender's epic on the human condition (in a way it's fitting that he chose this as his longest-running project, a period piece that encapsulates a lot of his concerns about what it is to be a man, or a woman, or in a relationship, or how to respond or not respond in political situations, and the tragedies that can unfold) ebbs and flows as one of Fassbinder's best.

    That is, I should say, when it's at its best. There are some times where scenes or even an episode can lag, but it's all so long and full of acting and dialog to chew on emotionally speaking that you're bound to find a story point or turn or scene that grabs you back in.

    Oh, and that epilogue. I still can't get over it, and I mean in a Gaspar Noe Enter the Void sort of way. It's an overlong character study of a man that shouldn't be interesting, but he is just by the sheer fact that it's a 15 1/2 hour testament to the bittersweet nature of his life, of everything that Franz Biberkopf experiences and does, both decent, horrible-verging-unforgivable, and what happens to him (Gunter Lamprecht, who has so much to do in this series it's hard not to see it as the performance of a lifetime).

    Indeed, with its many characters and sprawling urban storytelling (though a core set that really counts) it's what could be called a "Bittersweet Symphony of a City" really, and Berlin in the late 20's at that makes for one helluva setting any. It also has one hell of a villain in Reinhold, and a particular murder scene is among the most horrifying and repugnant and awesomely filmed in all of cinema, if only because Fassbinder chooses to repeat it several times in the series. And with that poetic narration that is the film/series biggest problem---and yet its quality that is unique to itself.

    All in all, a work of humanistic art, and if it's not Fassbinder's crowning achievement it's all the more remarkable that he tries so much to get there.
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