Rainer Werner Fassbinder

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

In the early 1970s, Rainer Werner Fassbinder discovered the American melodramas of Douglas Sirk and was inspired by them to begin working in a new, more intensely emotional register. One of the first and best-loved films of this period in his career is The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, which balances a realistic depiction of tormented romance with staging that remains true to the director’s roots in experimental theater. This unforgettable, unforgiving dissection of the imbalanced relationship between a haughty fashion designer (Margit Carstensen) and a beautiful but icy ingenue (Hanna Schygulla)—based, in a sly gender reversal, on the writer-director’s own desperate obsession with a young actor—is a true Fassbinder affair, featuring exquisitely claustrophobic cinematography by Michael Ballhaus and full-throttle performances by an all-female cast.

Film Info

Special Features

  • New 4K digital restoration, supervised by director of photography Michael Ballhaus, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interviews with Ballhaus and actors Margit Carstensen, Eva Mattes, Katrin Schaake, and Hanna Schygulla
  • New interview with film scholar Jane Shattuc
  • Role Play: Women on Fassbinder, a 1992 German television documentary by Thomas Honickel featuring interviews with Carstensen, Schygulla, and actors Irm Hermann and Rosel Zech
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Peter Matthews

New cover by Gary Fernández

Purchase Options

Special Features

  • New 4K digital restoration, supervised by director of photography Michael Ballhaus, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interviews with Ballhaus and actors Margit Carstensen, Eva Mattes, Katrin Schaake, and Hanna Schygulla
  • New interview with film scholar Jane Shattuc
  • Role Play: Women on Fassbinder, a 1992 German television documentary by Thomas Honickel featuring interviews with Carstensen, Schygulla, and actors Irm Hermann and Rosel Zech
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Peter Matthews

New cover by Gary Fernández

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Cast
Margit Carstensen
Petra von Kant
Hanna Schygulla
Karin Thimm
Katrin Schaake
Sidonie von Grasenabb
Eva Mattes
Gabriele von Kant
Gisela Fackeldey
Valerie von Kant
Irm Hermann
Marlene
Credits
Director
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Writer
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Based on the play by
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Director of photography
Michael Ballhaus
Art direction
Kurt Raab
Editor
Thea Eymèsz
Costume design by
Maja Lemcke
Music
The Platters
Music
The Walker Brothers
Music
Giuseppe Verdi

From The Current

Michael Ballhaus on The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
/
Three Reasons: The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Three Reasons: The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

ption for the video could go here and be however long it needed to be, within reason, of course.

/
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant: The Great Pretender
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant: The Great Pretender

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s characters play an endlessly layered game of dress-up in this tale of sadomasochistic love.

By Peter Matthews

/
A Fassbinder Melodrama in Chicago
A Fassbinder Melodrama in Chicago

A season-long retrospective of Rainer Werner Fassbinder continues with a screening of his psychosexual drama The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.

/
Ruben Östlund’s Top 10

Ruben Östlund is the director of the acclaimed films Force Majeure and The Square, the latter of which won the Palme d’Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.


Bitter Tears onstage, remembering Richard Schickel, Marker in Korea

Did You See This?

Bitter Tears onstage, remembering Richard Schickel, Marker in Korea

In an excerpt from his new book This Young Monster, Charlie Fox considers the “fearsome lucidity” of Rainer Werner Fassbinder: “There were no signs of a drooling id let loose or canny subterfuge between his public image and private life: this w…

/
Zach Clark’s Top 10

Zach Clark is the writer and director of Little Sister, White Reindeer, Vacation!, and Modern Love Is Automatic. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


The BFI’s List of the Best LGBT Films of All Time
The BFI’s List of the Best LGBT Films of All Time

For the past thirty years, the British Film Institute has been honoring the best in contemporary and classic LGBT cinema from around the world, with its annual BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival. In celebration of the festival’s three-decade anni…

/
Criterion’s Fans Show Their Dedication
Criterion’s Fans Show Their Dedication

This week marks the first occasion of the Criterion Blogathon, a massive movie lovefest organized by the film blog Criterion Blues.

/
Film Picks from Agnès Varda, Arnaud Desplechin, Olivier Assayas, and More
Film Picks from Agnès Varda, Arnaud Desplechin, Olivier Assayas, and More

As part of the launch of the new French streaming video service La Cinetek—which was founded by the filmmakers Pascale Ferran (Bird People), Cédric Klapisch (Chinese Puzzle), and Laurent Cantet (Return to Ithaca), as well as Alain Rocca, president…

/

Explore

Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Writer, Director

Rainer Werner Fassbinder made an astonishing forty-four movies—theatrical features, television movies and miniseries, and shorts among them—in a career that spanned a mere sixteen years, ending with his death at thirty-seven in 1982. He is perhaps remembered best for his intense and exquisitely shabby social melodramas (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul)—heavily influenced by Hollywood films, especially the female-driven tearjerkers of Douglas Sirk, and featuring misfit characters that often reflected his own fluid sexuality and self-destructive tendencies. But his body of work runs the gamut from epic period pieces (Berlin Alexanderplatz, the BRD Trilogy) to dystopic science fiction (World on a Wire) as well. One particular fascination of Fassbinder’s was the way the ghosts of the past, specifically those of World War II, haunted contemporary German life—an interest that wedded him to many of the other artists of the New German Cinema movement, which began in the late 1960s.