FASSBINDER AND BJØRNEBOE: "I am mistaken for the most unworthy."

"The garbage, the city and the death" by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Theater an der Ruhr
CRISIS, ADVERSITY, RUSS / The 100-year-old Jens Bjørneboe and the German film director, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who would have turned 75 this year, were both put in the public eye. Did this lead to shortened lives for both?


Bjørneboe tells in the famous interview in 1976 with NRK journalist and host Magne Haagen Ringnes that the reaction to the novel Under a harder sky had a definite consequence for the author's own life. At that time, 10 years after the so-called treason settlement in Norway, the guns were quite loose in his pocket, as he says in the interview. The book can today be read as part of the authors' general confrontation with the Norwegian judiciary, which Bjørneboe throughout his life gained personal experience with. Bjørneboe says that after 12-14 letters and phone calls with threats of corporal punishment, he took the car and drove abroad. "And was gone a long time." It was for a year and a half, and the time was later described by Bjørneboe as «the journey in the land of Chaos».

Suhrkamp included the month after all unsold copies of the edition with Fassbinder's piece.

With the novel, Bjørneboe had wanted to show that the showdown after the war constituted "a loss of life" for Norwegian legal life, because it introduced laws with retroactive effect and reintroduced the death penalty. The novel also carried on the critique of earlier works, of a post-war society that was unilaterally built on an economically grounded, positivist view of life. Bjørneboe went so far as to say that fascism was not limited to the pre-war and wartime European continent, but after the war appeared completely wild on Norwegian soil. As he wrote: "Not during Quisling, – but after the war, came the fascist period in Norwegian history."

Under a harder sky provoked a debate in Norwegian newspapers, which only a few novels had previously been the subject of. In Dagbladet, the Liberal politician Anton Beinset called the book a «literary masterpiece and a mean product». After the debates that had followed the school novel, among other things Jonas Bjørneboe did not feel strange now as a dead man in the Norwegian public.

Theater am Turm and anti-Semitism

For Rainer Werner FassbinderIn his case, the meeting of his life came with the verdict of public opinion in 1975, on the transition to the 30s, of which the film director did not get to experience more than half.

In the 1974–75 season, Fassbinder was named rescuer for the crisis-stricken, Theater at the Tower in Frankfurt, a national cultural prestige project in financial difficulties. In April 1974, he moved to Frankfurt with many of the actors he had become involved with over time through his theater and film work.

The task ended for Fassbinder with a failure that came to mark the rest of his life. First, it consisted of far more than traditional directorial work. Fassbinder was also expected to solve the theatre's administrative challenges, as well as hold meetings with all actors and stage staff to mediate internal tensions. Tasks that were definitely not for the monomaniac and very little democratically minded director.

Already in the autumn of 1974, the mood in the Frankfurt press slowly turned into a realization that Fassbinder had not been the right man to save the city's theater after all. The crisis culminated when Fassbinder, in order to curb performances – which had meant financial losses for the theater because the audience was absent – hastily wrote the play The garbage, the city and the dead, on a novel by the author, Gerhard Zwerenz. The play, certainly not one of the highlights of Fassbinder's production because the characters are deliberately reduced to social clichés, became a scandal even before it was performed.

Barrel binder. When He Worked On Querelle

Fassbinder wanted to show that anti-Semitism had survived the war and was a reality in 1970s Germany. It was actually a visionary idea, but the play contained allusions to a real-life housing speculation case in Frankfurt involving a Jewish construction contractor.

The characters in the play had remarks that were unequivocally anti-Semitic. But Fassbinder had never dreamed that anyone could believe that the anti-Semitic clichés the characters came up with were expressions of his own opinions. The director who if someone with works like Katzelmacher og Anxiety eats up the soul, the film that same spring, Fassbinder began at the theater in Frankfurt, had received standing ovations at the Cannes Film Festival, had proved that he was the opposite of racist.

The Frankfurt Magistrate tried by all means to prevent the performance of the play, and it was never performed on stage during Fassbinder's lifetime. However, the provocative director got the play filmed under the title The shadows of the angels with himself in a lead role. And in March 1976, the publisher published Suhrkamp the manuscript – for the month after withdrawing all unsold copies of the edition on the grounds that Fassbinder's piece «could cause misunderstandings».

Protesters prevented the performance of the play "Die Müll, Der Stadt Und Der Tot".

The author of a biography of Hitler called Fassbinder's play an expression of «a cheap hetz, inspired by ordinary clichés ». Several German newspapers saw hires at Fassbinder for a new one anti-Semitism, and he was on several occasions branded as a representative of a new «left-wing fascism». A new word came into circulation – "The end of the Scanian era" – that is, the time when it had still been forbidden to attack Jews. In other words, Fassbinder became the center of a scandal that affected probably the most difficult area in Germany's history – the strained relationship with the Jewish population.

He was accused of being anti-Semitic because he had allowed such views to be expressed in a work of art. It was more than Fassbinder – who, due to his difficult upbringing conditions in advance, was probably more sensitive to rejection – would even be able to keep up. Fassbinder himself denied that the event had caused a trauma and contented himself with saying: "I am being misunderstood in the most unworthy way".

Under a harder sky

Jens Bjørneboe's escape from the Norwegian people's reaction to his novel's strong criticism of the showdown after the war came when he was 37 years old, at the same age as Fassbinder ended his life. Bjørneboe's mental reaction to the reception of Under a harder sky can hardly be underestimated and has undoubtedly been a contributing factor to his increasing alcohol abuse after 1957. According to the author of the great Bjørneboe biography from 2009, Tore Rem, he «does not seem to have drunk from the age of 22 until he was 36 years old. But apart from this period, alcohol was a fixed, gradually getting worse and worse element of his life. "

For Bjørneboe, the case was accompanied Under a harder sky of a painful separation from his wife Lisel Funk, as well as of a farewell to the teaching profession at the Steiner school, which biographically was possibly the happiest and quite given in terms of creativity also a difficult fruitful period in his life.

For Fassbinder, the accusations of anti-Semitism caused a similar change in his way of life. The scandal caused people to question Fassbinder's abilities as a film director and to withhold money he needed to finance his films. After the experience, Fassbinder considered emigrating completely from Germany, and at least theater work was over. Author Gerhard Zwerenz states: “Rainer never stayed since he had been before. The campaign led him privately and artistically into a different path.»

At the Anthroposophical Priests' Seminar in Stuttgart in 1949 – Jens And Lisel And Their Friend, The German Anthroposophist, Hartmut Zeiher. The Cinema Archive

According to actress Irm Hermann, who followed Fassbinder into the mid-70s but said goodbye to him while working in Frankfurt, the director barely touched alcohol in the first years she saw him – and smoking a joint, quite common in many environments in the late sixties and early seventies, he sharply distanced himself from. But on his way into his 30s, it took off, the intense mixture of cocaine, sleeping pills, stimulants and alcohol, which ended up changing Fassbinder's personality, erasing his talent and eventually killing him.

After the war, fascism appeared completely alive on Norwegian soil.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder gave a final interview on June 9, 1982, the day before his death. The interview was never published, because Fassbinder's mother was prevented at the last minute from showing the clip of the dead-tired man with the flickering gaze in public. He barely mastered the use of words anymore. Still, he gets a message that makes an impression because it seems like a kind of spiritual testament to the artist he was: With allusion to his last film Querelle the words sound like something that could apply to his entire life work: “I think I had to have lived the life I have lived in order to make that film,” he says.

By the way, Bjørneboe and Fassbinder had a few other things in common. Both were interested in Jean Genet, Bjørneboe wrote a poem and the essay Jean Genet the Holy (see if The thief's diary, www.nytid.no), while Fassbinder ended up filming his youth's favorite book Quarrel of Brest of Genet. But both were also connected to the Steiner School. Bjørneboe started as a full-time class teacher in 1951 – probably exactly the same year Fassbinder was moved to the Steiner school in Leopoldstrasse in Munich – after an episode at his first school where he had thrown himself on the floor and shouted at the police when a teacher gave him a lussing.

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