An untimely death cut short in 1982, at the age of 37, the life and cinematographic career of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. We can only wonder at how much he succeeded to achieve in such a short time and we can only speculate on how his cinema work and the thematic of his films could have looked like in the years of and after the fall of the Berlin wall and the reunification of Germany. The films that he left are still amazing cinematographic achievements and some of the sharpest and critical visions of the recent past of Germany. He bluntly explored fascism and corrupt politics, family relations, sex and sexual orientation, race and morality. ‘Lola‘ which was made the year before his death is a cynical and sarcastic look at what he perceived as the corrupt foundations of the Federal Republic of Germany.

 

source https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082671

source https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082671

 

In this film Fassbinder frontally attacks the sacred cow myth of the German post-war renewal. The story is set in a small German town about one decade after the end of WWII. The war seems to be a memory that most people try to bury, the city rides on a development wave, ruins disappear and make place for modern buildings, life improves. Building contractors and the ‘new politicians’ who support them are the persons of the day. And yet, many things did not change that much.  ’Lola‘ has two sources of inspiration, the 1930s masterpiece  The Blue Angel directed by Josef von Sternberg with Marlene Dietrich in the lead role, and Gogol’s ‘The Government Inspector’ (or ‘Der Revisor’ as it is known in German). The first connects the story in the film with the past of the pre-war Germany, its moral and political corruption that nurtured the conditions of the rise of Nazism. The second broadens the vision to the more universal theme of the powerful stranger coming to a closed community, questioning its foundations, shaking its twisted rules and trying to change the unfair ways of doing things.

 

(video source TobisFilmclub)

 

The two principal heroes, the singer-prostitute Lola (Barbara Sukowa) and the building inspector Von Bohm (Armin Mueller-Stahl) seem also directly inspired by the lead characters in the two works, it is their bringing together and the un-probable relationship that develops between them that dominates in an original manner the script. Lola is forced as many other widows of the time (and heroines of the films of Fassbinder ) to descend into prostitution to sustain her family (daughter and mother), however she is not only a victim, but rather a complex and manipulative character who tries to use her beauty to achieve social recognition. Von Bohm becomes a character of equal weight in the film, his honesty and integrity being put at test by the social environment and his falling in love with the wrong woman. The acting of both Barbara Sukowa and Armin Mueller-Stahl is superb and remains the best part of this film. Also beautiful and expressive is the camera work, just watch the games of colors and the lightning of the characters. Some other parts of the film did not survive that well the 37 years since the film was made. Mario Adorf ‘s interpretation of the local tycoon seems to gross and grotesque for the tastes of today. The motivations of the characters and their changes in mood are not that clear. The important aspect however is that the rage of Fassbinder is here, as visible as ever, and the critical flame that he lit with his works, never avoiding or running away from a good controversy, are still a model for German cinema.