Love Is Colder Than Death

Love Is Colder Than Death

***

Reviewed by: Moominkat

A three-hander in which petty crook and pimp Franz (director Fassbinder in an uncredited role) and new bad boy Bruno (Ulli Lommel) meet while waiting to be interviewed for a position with a mob. They strike up a ‘friendship’ over the weekend and after declining a position with the company, Franz tells Bruno to look him up if he’s ever in Munich. Cut to Bruno looking him up – he’s been sent by the mobsters Franz turned down – whether to kill him or bring him back isn’t clear. He trawls the city’s brothels, looking for Franz’s woman/girlfriend, Johanna (Hanna Schygulla).

Franz moves in and they become a silent, rather chilling threesome; sharing a grotty room in which Johanna plies her trade, in between shooting local petty criminals and any innocent bystanders with no sign of remorse or engagement in the proceedings. Bruno devises a plan to rob a bank; they are to split the proceeds and go their separate ways until the heat dies down, then regroup. Except Bruno appears to have another plan in mind concerning Johanna. She decides to take matters in to her own hands…

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In black and white, with a severely experimental Sixties theatrical look to it, the acting is stilted and grim. There’s a Sergio Leone feel to this – I was strongly reminded of A Fistful Of Dollars et al. The film seems amateurish, with the feeling and look of a student’s first feature - perhaps not surprising since this was Fassbinder's feature debut. But while hard going, the film grows on you.

Fassbinder’s theatrical background is clear: many scenes are little more than still-life compositions, with the actors simply staring unblinkingly and without expression into the camera – quite discomfiting at times. There’s little dialogue, what’s said is brief and occasionally cryptic. There’s an obvious homo-erotic theme, which was probably quite shocking when the film came out, but now seems a little dated. Fassbinder was obviously much taken by Lommel, lighting him starkly to bring out the planes of his face (he reminded me of the character Kai in the cult sci-fi series The Lexx). Lommel conveys a sense of menace with his black hair, white skin, rosebud lips and dead eyes.

I liked the occasional comedy touches: for instance the idea of a bunch of no good crooks undergoing a two-day assessment process for a job (including being blindfolded for the interview with ‘Mr Big’ and some torture to see what they’re made of). There’s also a strangely lyrical and pointless scene when Bruno and Johanna wander, shoplifting, through a vast anonymous supermarket. But overall, this is full of cold blooded violence towards everyone, man or woman, no one is exempt. There is no kindness here. A political statement about the times?

Reviewed on: 13 Nov 2007
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Love Is Colder Than Death packshot
A petty criminal and his girlfriend get mixed up with a gangster. Out to own now on the RW Fassbinder Commemorative Collection: Volume 1.
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Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Writer: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Starring: Ulli Lommel, Hanna Schygulla, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Katrin Schaake, Liz Soellner

Year: 1969

Runtime: 88 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: West Germany

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A Fistful Of Dollars