Fassbinder’s Anarchic Spin on a Classic Brecht Role

Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks — Mar 27, 2018

With the 1970 television film Baal, a blistering adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s first play, two major figures of the New German Cinema joined forces for a vital collaboration. Director Volker Schlöndorff had already made three feature films (including his influential 1966 debut, Young Törless) by the time he tackled this project, casting a twenty-four-year-old Rainer Werner Fassbinder in the role of a booze-soaked, womanizing poet who goes on a scorched-earth bender across the German countryside. Fresh off making his own directorial feature debut with Love Is Colder Than Death (1969), Fassbinder delivers a revelatory performance, commanding every frame as he channels the character’s dark and provocative energies. In the above clip, taken from a supplement on our new edition of Baal, filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta—another key member of the New German Cinema who appears in the movie—talks about her legendary costar, marveling at how the highly disciplined artist made Brecht’s unruly role all his own, and how he managed to secure a place in the cast for his regular troupe of actors, including Hanna Schygulla and Irm Hermann.