The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

Dir: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972. Starring: Margit Carstensen, Hanna Schygulla, Katrin Schaake, Irm Hermann. Foreign.

When choosing where to start in a director's filmography, I've always enjoyed picking at random. Recommendations tend to be fairly overwhelming and a total buzz kill. The themes of Fassbinder's films were always intriguing to me, and since I enjoy seeing filmmakers break down and interpret romantic relationships, I started with The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. The film surpassed my expectations in terms of human dynamics by exposing a character's relationship to the women in her life in such a constricting setting, from her lover down to her servant.

Petra von Kant (Margit Carstensen) is as far removed from an overnight success as a person could get. As a fashion designer in Germany, she had to go through the process of constant rejection and a humiliating divorce before being taken seriously in her field. These experiences have turned her into a cynic in matters of work and love. Her daughter is away at boarding school and she lives alone with her servant/secretary/assistant, Marlene (Irm Hermann). Marlene's role as a servant in her home goes far beyond the orthodox. In a sense, she's a broken extension of Petra, living vicariously through her disgrace and vanity. You get the feeling that she once aspired to be a self-sustaining fashion designer, but found herself tailoring not only Petra's designs, but her mess of an existence.

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Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Jun 10, 2011 3:32pm
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