Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Rainer Werner Fassbinder | Die Dritte Generation (The Third Generation)
by Douglas Messerli
Rainer Werner Fassbinder (writer and director) Die Dritte Generation (The Third Generation)
Their relationships with others, some with the enemies they are seeking to destroy, are equally brutal and meaningless: Susanne works for the industrialist P. J. Lurz (Eddie Constantine) and is having a kind of S&M relationship with police-head Gerhard Gast, her father-in-law, who is protecting Lurz from possible terrorist attacks. Paul, a new recruit, assigned to stay with Hilde, rapes her, but immediately after becomes her lover.
Fassbinder links their episodic meetings with sexual comments penned on Berlin bathroom walls. And, indeed, it appears that the coarse language of both the heterosexual and homosexual toilet statements is appropriate to the absurd sexual posturings of The Third Generation’s cell members: at one point a couple stand in an embrace while Paul masturbates to the television set, and two women hold hands.
What this absurd group does not perceive is that their major supporter is Lutz himself, in an attempt to stage a coup so that his company might sell more surveillance computers. In short, the industrialists are supporting the terrorists in order to create a bigger industry for their own protection—with no Edward Snowden even on the horizon yet. As Ghast sickeningly pontificates: “Capitalism invented terrorism to force the state to protect it better.”
Memorizing their new identities, the group scatters. Only the confused and totally innocent Bernhard remains to answer Officer Gast’s endless questions. But the policeman’s, themselves, leads him to wonder where all the others might have gone, particularly his beloved Franz. Following August, he observes a meeting with the industrialist Lurz, who hands over more money for the group’s finances.
Having set up the newcomer Franz as the traitor, August tells his supposed comrade, Bernhard, where Ilse has been buried, while alerting authorities where they might find him. Despite Bernhard’s attempt to warn his friend, Franz is shot and killed. Gast makes certain that Bernhard is killed as well.
What Fassbinder has established, obviously, is that the industrialist world and terrorists both need one another and are equally responsible for the other’s existence. Viewers in Frankfurt beat up the projectionist upon the film’s opening; audiences in Hamburg threw acid upon the screen. My friend Pablo, who introduced me to the works of Fassbinder, and who is a great admirer of his work, told me that after about a half-hour through this movie he got up and walked out, suggesting that he couldn’t even determine the character’s relationships; I suggested that if he had stayed for the entire film, these might have become more apparent, but I do sympathize with his feelings early on in the film.
For me, this film, like all of Fassbinder’s work I have seen to date, was absolutely spellbinding, this one being a comedy that dramatically (even with its radically disjunctive leaps) reveals the relationship with power and those who might like to usurp it. It is after all, a mirror image. Monopoly is the name of the game.
Los Angeles, April 5, 2016