19 January 2009

Fassbinder Pt. 4 - LOLA (1981)

Lola is chronologically the second film in Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy, though he numbered it as the third film for some reason. Like Maria Braun, Lola primarily focuses on an anti-heroine -- in this case it is a singer/prostitute named Lola who lives and works in a candy-colored whorehouse. She is, as her highest-paying customer Schuckert regards her, "the best piece of ass" in the area and she knows it. Prompted by an off-hand remark spoken by Schuckert that the new building commissioner, von Bohm, is not the type of man to be seen with her, Lola sets off a plan to not only prove Schuckert wrong, but to gain everything she wants (money, property, adoration) in the process.

Lola juggles three men throughout the film: she is Schuckert's mistress; she plays virgin to von Bohm; and she has a casual relationship with the whorehouse drummer, Esslin, who is also von Bohm's employee. Lola, like Maria, is a struggling woman working from almost nothing, as a single-mother-prositute. Unlike the established screen cliche, however, Lola does not have a heart of gold inside of that exploited, undressed body. She seems to have no moral conflicts whatsoever as she manipulates and undresses for whoever she feels.

Her rise to power feels even less deserved than it does with Maria, for whom I tend to sympathize with more. Lola feels more like a child throwing tantrums when she can't get what she wants, and I think Fassbinder is certainly making that distinction between Maria and Lola clear: he places dolls around Lola's room and coats it in horizontal bars of rainbow color, like a child's fantasy room to emphasize her infantile nature. Lola's primary color, however, is red -- a color that evokes passion and blood. Anyone who enters into Lola's world wears a shade of red on their face through Fassbinder's playful and exaggerated use of light filters.

My lack of sympathy, and even interest in, Lola is accomplished not only through her child-like behavior and her ammorality, but in the way she gets displaced by the far more interesting and nuanced Schuckert. Schuckert is a loud, naturally-magnetic man who is portly, rich, and laughs out loud at everyhting. He is the most outspoken (and corrupt) member of the city's unashamedly corrupt govnernment, who altogether seem as if they walked off the screen from THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISE and into Fassbinder's film. On paper, Shuckert is a complete scumbag -- he is an opportunistic, filthy rich society man who sleeps with a whore (who he claims he owns) that tries to take down the noble-minded von Bohm -- but he is played with such charm and energy (by Mario Adorf) that you can't help but like him against your better judgment. He is like the drunken Falstaff whose cowardice and corruptness is terrible, but who you love anyway. The mixed feelings that Fassbinder previously stirred up through Maria Braun is brought on by Schuckert in Lola instead of the female protagonist -- to me anyway.

Though von Bohm (who looks a bit like Jack Nance from the Lynch universe) at first seems like the "good guy" of the film for whom we are supposed to want to model ourselves after, Fassbinder (of course) ends up making him as contradictory and amoral as everyone else. Fassbinder refuses any clear answers in his films and does not offer any models of goodness since he felt such representations would be disengenuous -- you are being spoon-fed ideologies and ways to be, which is counter-productive to Fassbinder's intention which is to discover your own self and your own sense of morality.

I found a very interesting and insightful summation of Fassbinder's intention in this regard on Jim's Reviews:

"Fassbinder believed that all people are fundamentally sado-masochistic, caused by childhood rearing which makes them excessively dependent. He saw this desperate need for a 'leader' continue throughout [his] entire life, even as he observed people's simultaneous frustration and desire to destroy the 'superior' whom they had raised up. Consequently, he saw fascism as a latent condition of middle-class life, not only in the period leading up to the Nazis, but long before, and not just in Germany. (Fassbinder said that this was why he repeatedly broke with people who had become too dependent on him, or he on them: take that explanation as you will.) But he was not a confirmed pessimist, believing that 'mutual dependence,' and the resulting fascism, could be overcome.

Fascism, he believed, can only be stopped when it is understood through self-awareness, which begins with the individual – who has moved beyond mutual dependence and other forms of socially-induced blindness to an authentic state. Of course, none of the characters in the BRD films achieves that ideal of self-awareness; and that is exactly Fassbinder's point. As he once remarked, social 'revolution should take place not on the screen but in real life.'"

No comments: