Fassbinder Film Fest: Veronika Voss

1982 penultimate Fassbinder film

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Robert, a sports journalist, meets the titular actress whose fame has disappeared as her career has fallen apart. Despite being in a relationship, he sleeps with Voss, but she starts acting wacky. Robert discovers that she's hooked on morphine provided by a sketchy doctor and tries to get to the bottom of things. And he has to replace a vase.

Another uplifting drama from Fassbinder, but this one couldn't look any more different than The Merchant of Four Seasons. Whereas the other Fassbinder movies I've seen have these lurid 70's colors, this one is in black and white. And it's that sort of oily black and white. The movie's gorgeous, but it's gorgeous in a bleak way. I'm not sure I've seen whites look whiter or blacks look blacker than here, and there's also a lot of weird things going on with some of the framing, the angles, and especially the light. Candlelight, artificial light, and most bizarrely (and anachronistically, I believe, although I'm not an expert on them) a disco ball cast light that bleeds, all these fuzzy splotches of light. The washed-out quality almost looks amateurish at times, and if it wasn't for an earlier bit of dialogue where Voss talks about people having light and dark parts, I might have thought it was meaningless. Anyway, the film's got a great visual style, one that doesn't quite seem like it belongs in the 1980s and one that doesn't fit in with those other Fassbinder movies I've seen.

Rosel Zech is the actress who plays the lead role, and it's a really interesting performance. There are times when she overcooks, another thing that makes this film seem out of time, but the melodrama kind of fits with the character and her profession. With a character like Voss, it's important that the viewer is a little confused about what's real and what's pretend, and until the morphine is introduced, you really don't know. Zech moans and screeches like a female Nicolas Cage, and she's got just the right amount of attractiveness and craziness to make the character work.

She also gets a nice musical moment where she sings "Memories Are Made of This" during one of a few feverish dream sequences. Well, she sort of sings it. The music in this is very strange actually. There are several, also anachronistically, all these country songs that don't really seem to fit with the time period or even really what's going on in the scene. Lee Hazelwood? Not sure why Lee Hazelwood songs would have been playing in mid-50's Germany, but who am I to question Fassbinder? Actually, I'm not allowed to criticize the guy during the Fassbinder Film Fest. That would just be rude.

I'm not 100% sure what this movie's about but suspect it's allegorical. The characters--the love-struck sports reporter, the actress whose popularity is waning, the malicious Dr. Katz, Robert's girlfriend, an elderly couple--all feel like they could represent pieces of a post-war Germany, like they were symbols almost as much as they were characters, but I don't have nearly enough background to piece all that together. The movie has the feel of a darker Sunset Boulevard. It's definitely recommended because of the cinematography, the gripping performance, and the general weirdness of the storytelling.

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