West Germany, 1981
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Production: Rialto Film-Preben-Philipsen and Trio Film Westdeutschen Rundfunk; color, 35mm; running time: 115 minutes; length 10,313 feet. Released 1981, West Germany.
Producers: Rainer Werner Fassbinder with Horst Wendlundt; screenplay: Peter Märthesheimer, Pea Frölich, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder; photography: Xaver Schwarzenberger; editors: Juliane Lorenz and Franz Walsch (Rainer Werner Fassbinder); sound recordists: Vladimir Vizner and Milan Bor; art director: Helmut Gassner; music: Peer Raben; costume designers: Barbara Baum and Egon Strasser; artistic consultant: Harry Baer; choreography: Dieter Gackstetter; staging: Peter Marklewitz and Uwe Ringler.
Cast: Barbara Sukowa (Lola); Armin Mueller-Stahl (Von Bohm); Mario Adorf (Schukert); Matthias Fuchs (Esslin); Helga Feddersen (Frau Hettich); Karin Baal (Lola's mother); Ivan Desny (Wittich); Elisabeth Volkmann (Gigi); Hark Böhm (Völker); Karl-Heinz von Hassel (Timmerding); Rosel Zech (Frau Schukert); Sonja Neudorfer (Frau Fink); Christine Kaufmann (Susi); Y Sa Lo (Rosa); Günther Kaufmann (GI); Isolde Barth (Frau Völker); Harry Baer (1st demonstrator); Rainer Will (2nd demonstrator); Karsten Peters (Editor); Herbert Steinmetz (Concierge); Nino Korda (TV delivery man); Raul Gimenez (1st waiter); Udo Kier (2nd waiter); Andrea Heuer (Librarian); Ulrike Vigo (Mariechen); Helmut Petigk (Bouncer); Juliane Lorenz (Saleswoman); Marita Pleyer (Rahel); Maxim Oswald (Grandfather Berger).
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Rainer Werner Fassbinder was by far the most prolific of Germany's Neue Welle directors, a group which includes Volker Schlöndorff, Werner Herzog, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, and Wim Wenders. During his short life, the controversial and iconoclastic Fassbinder directed 41 feature films of which Lola is arguably his best, perhaps his masterpiece.
Fassbinder's prodigious cinematic oeuvre abounded in political statements protesting psychological and material corruption. He held a lifelong contempt for those who lived for profit. The subject matter of the majority of his films is the post-World War II Adenauer years of Fassbinder's youth when Germany underwent its economic miracle. Fassbinder's political stance was not that of a great thinker. His socio-political philosophies emanated from his personal feelings, and his dissection of Germany's materialism was saved from total misanthropy by his abrasive wit and sense of the ironic. He disavowed those who called him a cynic by explaining, "My work is not cynical; it is realistic. Pessimistic. Life is pessimistic in the end because we die, and pessimistic in between because of corruption in our daily lives . . . . It is still the fact that you win by playing by the rules, and the pure person doesn't have much of a chance."
His depiction of the corruption which permeated his homeland was never more satisfying than in his allegorical quartet: The Marriage of Maria Braun, Lili Marlene, Lola, and Veronika Voss. These films span the social history of Germany from 1938 to the late 1950s and each is told from the point of view of a strong-willed woman (the mother country).
In Lola, a small town in Bavaria is controlled by the power elite, birds of prey who extort the poor and underprivileged. Led by Schukert, the building contractor, these officials conspire to gain political control over von Bohm, the new building commissioner. Their deus ex machina is Lola, Schukert's mistress, the mother of his illegitimate daughter and the singer in his whorehouse/cabaret. Von Bohm's moral and physical seduction by Lola is Fassbinder's cinematic metaphor for German corruption.
Lola obviously is a derivation of von Sternberg's Der blaue Engel, but it is only a derivation and not a re-make. The film expertly employs all of Fassbinder's filmic devices—his vivid use of color, his circular moving camera and long pans, his penchant for melodrama, his expert handling of actors, and most of all the distancing of himself and his camera from the subjects on the screen. All come together to better advantage here than in his previous works, making this easily his most accessible film.
Lola is a combination of themes from Der blaue Engel, Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes, Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, and the many influences of directors Fassbinder admired, such as Godard and Douglas Sirk, and stands as the best expression of his extraordinary personal cinema.