Saturday, January 3, 2009

Drama: Das Kleine Chaos / The Little Chaos (1966, Rainer Werner Fassbinder)

The Little Chaos (1966)
West Germany, 9 min
Directed by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Written by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Starring: Christoph Roser, Marite Greiselis, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Greta Rehfeld

My first film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder is a nine-minute short, one of the director's earliest efforts. The film follows three youths, caught up in the rebellious counter-culture of the 1960s, who decide to supplement their meagre incomes (selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door) by orchestrating a home robbery. The three aspiring criminals – played by Christoph Roser, Marite Greiselis and Fassbinder himself – bust into the home of a frightened woman (Greta Rehfeld) and demand her money. The characters, particularly Fassbinder's Franz, do plenty of over-the-top posturing, no doubt in homage to the James Cagney style of acting that dominated gangster movies of the 1930s and 1940s (the film even references this sub-genre of Hollywood filmmaking, musing that "I'd like to see a gangster movie that ends well, for once"). The scene of a home invasion surprisingly called to mind A Clockwork Orange (1971), though I don't know how likely it is that Stanley Kubrick received inspiration from the amateur work of an emerging German director.

Though The Little Chaos (1966) was undoubtedly shot on a limited budget, and the cinematography certainly betrays these limitations, Fassbinder does know how to position his camera, alternating between close-up static shots and more dynamic hand-held pans. The film opens with a long zoom across a road, as an enigmatic jazz tune overwhelms the soundtrack, suggesting the brand of classy crime capers that became popular in the 1960s. The acting is adequate enough, though certainly not authentic. Fassbinder mugs determinedly to the camera, a faux tough-guy who perpetually seems to have a foul odour beneath his nostrils. Roser's character is much more tender and introverted, a likable enough guy who's obviously been roped into something in which he desires no part. The film ends with "I Can't Control Myself" by The Troggs on the soundtrack, followed by the wail of police sirens. The three petty criminals will probably get away with it this time, but one gets the feeling that they won't be so fortunate on their next venture.

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