Rainer Werner Fassbinder is proving to be one of the most important directors of the 1970s, and his film Fear Eats the Soul, which launches London’s new art cinema, the Gate, is a good example of his recent work. Fassbinder’s films are not specifically feminist but they are of interest to women because they deal consistently with themes in which women have an independent importance, and have been emphasised by the women’s movement: the family, hysteria, and the contradictions between the oppressed and the oppressor within a class. His particular interest, the individual’s desire that finds itself in direct conflict with class and family ideology, links him to the Hollywood melodrama of the 1950s. Fassbinder acknowledges his debt to Hollywood. His understanding of the Hollywood melodrama, the way its greatest directors built up a picture of ideological forces and the insoluble problems of sex and desire within them, contributes to the complexity he achieves in his own work.
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