Stanley Kubrick & Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Stanley Kubrick

When Stanley met Werner

Stanley Kubrick and Rainer Werner Fassbinder were two giants of post war cinema. If only they had met, says Paul Dale

This month two monsters of cinema meet in the central belt. As German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s takes over the Glasgow Film Theatre (courtesy of Goethe Institut) with a small selection of his better known films (Fear Eats the Soul, Effi Brest, The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant and his most commercially successful film The Marriage of Maria Braun), a poster exhibition and free drop-in documentary screenings; an almost complete retrospective of the films of Stanley Kubrick breaks ground at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse.

These two remarkable filmmakers never met, yet despite being traumatised by once having to witness the sang froid that arose when François Ozon (Fassbinder’s natural successor) and Peter Greenaway (the Kubrick of the public purse) met, god, I wish they had. These two very different directors could have learned so much from each other. Imagine if they had swapped place for a day, a month, a year. Kubrick holing himself up in some dingy house in Berlin with his favourite actors amongst the half ripped temazepam packets and mounds of dexamphetamine, and being forced to churn out a film in a couple of days. No researchers holding folders containing examples of 17th century quill pens and certainly no model space ships. Or imagine Fassbinder, with his bad skin, cigarette permanently in hand and penchant for verbal abuse storming around Shepperton Studios envoking the spirit of his hero Jean-Marie Straub as he dismantled the lives of the superficially contented crew of the SS Discovery with a dissection of their banal social conventions. I would like to see that film and would also like to see the one Kubrick would make in his Berlin squat. Maybe it would hark back to this expatriate American’s sparse and beautiful New York photography of the 1940s. Maybe it would bring out Kubrick’s talent for Carry On style facetiousness occasionally glimpsed (most noticeably in the speeded up motion copulation to the William Tell Overture in A Clockwork Orange).

Fassbinder and Kubrick did, after all, share an obsession with syntax and stylisation, even if they emerged from very different traditions. More crucially it can be argued that Kubrick and Fassbinder despised the very humanity that powered their greatest films (Fassbinder was vitriol personified and Kubrick annihilated it in Dr Strangelove and moved off into outer space in 2001).

The truth is that had Fassbinder lived past his 37 years, he would have taken everyone to the woodshed and schooled them. Just look at what he did when he shifted genre. His rarely seen 1971 western Whity pours sauerkraut over Leone’s spaghetti with unforgettable effect. In 1975 Fassbinder even interpreted A Clockwork Orange in his own inverted trenchant manner with Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven. These are the films I wish they were showing in Glasgow; he was Brecht, Godard and Artaud to Kubrick’s lumpfisted parabolist. We will not see his like again.

Fassbinder, GFT, Glasgow, until Sun 29 Mar. Kubrick: A Retrospective from Fri 6 Mar–Sun 5 Apr.

The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant

  • 1972
  • W
  • 2h 4min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Written by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Cast: Margit Carstensen, Hanna Schygulla, Irm Hermann, Katrin Schaake, Eva Mattes, Gisela Fackeldey

In a sumptuous apartment lives a fashion designer, slavishly attended by her assistant, but the arrival of an attractive young woman whom the former wishes to use as a model changes the domestic power set-up. One of the great Fassbinder films, incisively examining the way in which social positions influence romantic…

Effi Briest

  • 4 stars
  • 1974
  • Germany
  • 2h 14min
  • U
  • Directed by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Written by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Theodor Fontane
  • Cast: Hanna Schygulla, Wolfgang Schenck, Ulli Lommel

Fassbinder's adaptation of Theodor Fontane's much-filmed novel is a film of icy, stultifying and distant pleasures. Schygulla is superb as the woman married to an older man, who takes a lover out of boredom, with fatal consequences. Beautifully made and shot (in steely black and white) this is undoubtedly one of…

Fear Eats the Soul

  • 1973
  • Germany
  • 1h 33min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Written by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Cast: Brigitte Mira, El Hedi ben Salem, Barbara Valentin, Irm Hermann

A middle-aged charwoman who used to be a Nazi Party member, takes up with a young Arab immigrant worker, much to the consternation of her friends and neighbours. Typically melodramatic Fassbinder study of a disintegrating relationship, which also examines the problems of racism in West German society.

The Killing

  • 4 stars
  • 1956
  • US
  • 1h 23min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
  • Cast: Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards.

Kubrick's partially abstract vision of Jim Thompson's novel creates classic film noir with its perfectly cast and rawly vivid depiction of greed and corruption. An ex-con recruits the help of small time crooks to rob two million from a racetrack, and the tightly structured narrative follows the ensuing chaos as the plan…


  • 4 stars
  • 1960
  • US
  • 3h 16min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Stanley Kubrick, Anthony Mann
  • Cast: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov, John Gavin, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Tony Curtis

Terrific, restored version of Kubrick's epic account of a slave revolt in Ancient Rome. Fights, lust, political intrigue, romance - it's got the lot.

Fassbinder 1945 - 1982

Created by the Goethe-Institut to mark the 25th anniversary of RW Fassbinder's death in 2007, this exhibition consists of eight prints of original German film posters and statements by international directors about his influence on them.