Festival Review: Fassbinder To Love Without Demands (2015)

With unique archive footage, Christian Braad Thomsen’s Fassbinder To Love Without Demands delivers an honest and intelligent portrait of the German director.

Love Is Colder Than Death

by Mark Wilshin

Fassbinder To Love Without Demands

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Based on the personal recollections of Danish film journalist Christian Braad Thomsen, Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands is an episodic but thorough examination of the man and his works. Starting with the terrible reception of his first feature film Love Is Colder Than Death at the 1969 Berlin Film Festival, the bio-doc builds through photographs, stills, audio recordings and filmed interviews a portrait of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, his loose but consuming relationships with his family and the extended families he created around him. Thomsen was an early adopter, cherishing the film’s long takes of silence and the dramatic camera movement – a new voice in cinema beyond the usual clichéd grammar, but no fan of the populist and classically simple Palme d’Or winning Fear Eats The Soul. A compulsive worker who created a disproportionately enormous oeuvre in film, theatre and TV and died at the age of 37, Fassbinder is an exhausted but honest and intelligent interviewee about both his films and himself. And it’s these archive interviews, along with personal recollections from chief collaborators Irm Hermann und Harry Baer that brings a new light to the Fassbinder cosmos, the spell he could cast over his actors as well as his sensitive, childlike and occasionally abusive relationships. An intimate, honest and multifaceted portrait of a man, director and friend, Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands doesn’t quite fulfil its promise – respectfully upholding the curtain around Fassbinder’s most intimate relationships, his homosexuality that no doubt cast a certain bitterness over his views on marriage and procreation. But nevertheless, as one man’s tribute to another, Christian Braad Thomsen’s film shows a love and understanding without too many demands.

Fassbinder To Love Without Demands is now showing at the 65th Berlin Film Festival

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