Berlin Alexanderplatz, Parts VIII–XI

VIII: The Sun Warms the Skin, but Burns It Sometimes, Too (Die Sonne wärmt die Haut, die sie manchmal verbrennt). IX: About the Eternities Between the Many and the Few (Von den Ewigkeiten zwischen den Vielen und den Wenigen). X: Loneliness Tears Cracks of Madness Even in Walls (Einsamkeit reisst auch in Mauern Risse des Irrsinns). XI: Knowledge Is Power, and the Early Bird Catches the Worm (Wissen ist Macht, und Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund)

Restored in 2006, Berlin Alexanderplatz is the summa of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's art, and the culmination of his lifelong relationship to Alfred Döblin's monumental novel of 1920s Berlin-a book the filmmaker said was “embedded in my mind, my flesh, my body as a whole, and my soul.” Fassbinder pours knowing tenderness into the characterization of Franz Biberkopf (Günter Lamprecht), an unemployed lumpen worker who earns his living as a thief and pimp following a stint in jail for murdering his mistress. Franz is a jovial if explosive figure in the Alexanderplatz district of Berlin, a man with optimistic dreams, a determination to “go straight,” and an absurd faith in love. The film chronicles the destruction of this faith, amid the poverty, hypocrisy, and violence of Berlin in the years just before Nazism took full hold.

At fifteen and a half hours, Berlin Alexanderplatz comes closer than most film experiences to the engagement that a good novel offers. The beauty, richness, and cohesion of Fassbinder's style can here be fully appreciated as it links one chapter to the next.

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