A Retrospective

10 September 2021 to 6 March 2022

Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1945-1982) was a director, film producer, actor and author. As one of the key representatives of the New German Cinema, he succeeded in synthesising radical subjectivity and social analysis in his work, capturing the look and feel of the Federal Republic of Germany of his time like few other artists.
In his films, Fassbinder always sought to identify and show the general by means of the specific: ‘Precisely because they are so specific and national and because they try to describe the country in which they are made, and in which I live, they also say something about democracies in general.’ The controversies and debates about his work and his person, even during his lifetime, form an integral part of this. His exposed position, his creative non-conformity and artistic radicalism led to now-legendary films, television and stage plays that have become part of the collective visual memory.

«I am not interested in anything reasonable.» Wolfgang Limmer/Fritz Rumler, »Alles Vernünftige interessiert mich nicht« (1980), in: Robert Fischer (Hg.), Fassbinder über Fassbinder. Die ungekürzten Interviews, Frankfurt: Verlag der Autoren, 2004, S. 493.

Fassbinder lived and demanded intensity. His often contrary, critical attitude never got in the way of his profoundly affectionate depiction of people, irrespective of their milieu, and was invariably marked by respect and consistency. From the beginning, he moved between theatre, film/television and documentary styles.

A prolific and exceptionally talented filmmaker, Fassbinder died in 1982 at the age of just 37. In the years since 1966 he had made 45 films, among them FEAR EATS THE SOUL and THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN as well as multi-part television series such as EIGHT HOURS DON’T MAKE A DAY and BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ. He produced or co-produced 26 films, appeared as a performer or guest in 21 films by other directors as well as in 19 of his own; he wrote 14 plays, re-edited 6 and directed 25. Moreover, he wrote 4 radio plays and 37 screen plays, and collaborated with other writers on 13 screenplays.

The retrospective, chronologically structured exhibition presents Fassbinder’s oeuvre, shown in combination with archive and source material, as an unparalleled social document of its time. The system of film, television and theatre production from the 1960s to the 1980s can be traced through his multifaceted career, and it was thanks to his work that public broadcast productions came to be held to a higher standard.

The exhibition seeks to present Fassbinder’s life and work within the overall context of the social system governing the Federal Republic of Germany – and as its mirror. A selection of objects, quotations, photographs and graphics facilitate this contextualisation.

Fassbinder, born on 31 May 1945 – soon after the German capitulation – experienced the emotional and material effects of the post-war period. And they found their way – directly and indirectly – into his oeuvre. In his films, particularly in his BRD-Trilogie (‘FRG Trilogy’), Fassbinder sought to record and reveal societal trends with the sensitivity of a seismograph. In GERMANY IN AUTUMN and THE THIRD GENERATION he took a close look at the so-called German Autumn and the RAF (Red Army Faction). In FONTANE EFFI BRIEST, he turned his eye on the Wilhelmine period. The bourgeoisie and its increasingly rigid social norms would also have been addressed in DEBIT AND CREDIT based on the novel by Gustav Freytag – one of many projects that remained unrealised in Fassbinder's short career. His final project was a biography of Rosa Luxemburg – it was cut short by his untimely death in 1982.

The exhibition also shines a light on the extended family system of Fassbinder’s ‘collective’. There was a method to the family formation – which will be explored in another section of the exhibition – and artists such as Harry Baer, Ingrid Caven, Irm Hermann, Peer Raben, Hanna Schygulla and Kurt Raab remained close to Fassbinder throughout his career. The retrospective will also take a look at the filmic, literary and musical role models and sources that shaped Fassbinder and his work.

The exhibition sets out to trace Fassbinder’s life and work and to introduce him to a wider audience as a multifaceted artist who is inseparably linked to German culture, society and politics. All of his works – some more subtly than others – hold a mirror up to the viewer. ‘I am not interested in anything rational,’ he declared in 1980, and many of his images and themes – for example anti-Semitism, migration, role stereotypes or queerness – are radical, innovative, extraordinary and ground-breaking. At the time, they frequently met with fierce criticism, but they continue to resonate with modern audiences. Fassbinder was able to capture deeply honest interactions and social structures and to visualise them with great intensity as reflections of society. For him it was ‘always important to make films about people, about the way they relate to one another, their dependence on each other and on society.’ All this makes his work deeply intimate, current, relevant and unforgettable. To understand it means to be able to muster understanding and tolerance for ourselves and others.

The multimedia exhibition is accompanied by an extensive on- and offline film programme.

An exhibition of the Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, in co-operation with the DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum, Frankfurt/Main, and the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation, Berlin.

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Admission tickets

The 3G rule applies to all exhibition visitors on Sunday, September 26 2021. Admission only with proof of vaccination / recovery or with a negative corona test.

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Literatur zur Ausstellung in der Bibliothek