It really isn’t easy getting to know the artists that we admire. A piece of art that you love and cherish could very well be created by a monster or someone who isn’t exactly a great person. No, sometimes the best art is created by people who suffer from their own demons and take it out on those all around them. In the case of German filmmaking legend, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, his works mean a great deal to the cinema world while contemporary director Oskar Roehler hasn’t found his grand audience, yet both are matched with similar predatory tendencies. In Roehler’s newest picture Enfant Terrible he maniacally sheds a light on Fassbinder’s downfalls in a way that seems cruel and almost untrue. The film operates as a means to expose without honoring the mythic writer-director in the slightest– and fails to tap into the magic that has surrounded the late filmmaker’s films.
In the late 1960’s, a troubled young playwright decided to take his avant-garde talents from the open German stage to the screen. Rainer Werner Fassbinder (played by Oliver Masucci) has a grand plan: make seven films in a year. He does it, but at the cost of gradually descending into a spiral of abusive relationships, drugs, and plenty of alcohol. As we meet the casts of his first few films, we can only gather that he uses these people as a means to stick a huge middle finger to the conventions of cinema and as a crutch to fuel his self-destructive habits. Every step of the way, Fassbinder never finds a way to redeem himself and is further portrayed as a hostile freak and that could be a huge fault on part of Roehler’s vision of the director.
While I have only seen Beware a Holy Whore and The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant and know a few details about Fassbinder through a fanatic friend, I do understand the director had a specific charm to his works. In those two films, there is a lovely emotional energy that feels like a mess, but controlled like a noise musician who really knows what he is doing. Enfant Terrible never feels like this and instead feels cold and emotionless. Even in the tender moments between Fassbinder and his lover, Salem (Erdal Yildiz), we are never given the weight of Fassbinder’s feelings and instead are given the weight of his actions. In Petra Von Kant we get a good look of even the titular character’s horrible view of the world, yet here we just see action. Now, this works well if this was the purpose of the film, but to suggest that Roehler’s intention was to purely portray a beloved figure as someone irredeemable, then you have to wonder why it is done so evilly.
Verdict: 3 out of 5 Stars
Enfant Terrible does provide an engaging story to say the least and it is a pretty film. The harsh neon lights and hand painted studio set pieces are very crafty and nice to look at. It does remind me of Francis Ford Coppola’s One From the Heart because of this, but I am only familiar with that through screenshots (I would love to see the film). Masucci does a great job of being a complete scumbag and troubled artist that it is almost believable that he really is Fassbinder (but certainly not at age 22). These things just don’t add up when you consider the portrayal.
Oskar Roehler’s Enfant Terrible isn’t a bad film, but it does a bad job at portraying a versatile legend in the film world: Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Here, we get a one note and unbearable character that doesn’t have much to him except abusing lovers, drinks, and painkillers. When you consider this and how much a director has influence on a picture, you wonder their true motivations. In Fassbinder’s case it was to sleep with a cute guy or to have a good time. In Roehler’s, it feels like it’s to smear a dead man’s name.