Rainer Werner Fassbinder Götter der Pest (Gods of the Plague) / 1970, USA 1977
Often grouped in a loosely based trilogy with Love Is Colder Than Death (of 1969), and The American Soldier, of the same year, Gods of the Plague begins soon after the earlier film ended, with the small-time crook, Franz Walsch (this time played by the handsome Harry Baer rather than Fassbinder) being released from a Munich prison.
His first call is to his former mistress, Joanna (Hanna Schygulla), now a singer in a local nightclub, Lola Montes (named in deference to Max Ophüls’ 1955 masterpiece, one of numerous film references sprinkled throughout this movie*). And for a short period the film focuses on his continued infatuation with her former lover before Franz moves on, partly in search of his old friend, Gorilla (Günther Kaufmann, Fassbinder’s reluctant lover for several years), now in hiding and whom, he soon perceives has killed his brother. A second woman, Magdalena (Ingrid Cravven) briefly takes Franz into her bed, and a third woman, Margarethe (Margarethe von Trotta) soon appears as another would-be suitor to Franz. Indeed throughout this highly theatrical and somewhat slow-moving early part of the film, women quite literally hang on Franz’s shoulders and arms, undressing him like he were a play toy. Yet throughout Franz seems almost to be dead, saying little, responding sexually even less, often simply laying still as he were a traumatized survivor. He is the kind of figure, as one critic has noted, to which all the other film’s figures assign whatever desires or possible relationships they imagine.
Los Angeles, April 21, 2013