Rainer Werner Fassbinder interview by Frank Ripploh//march 1982


What are you afraid of?


Everyone’s afraid of that.

Nope, most people are afraid of dying and not of death itself; it’s the suffering leading up to death, long or brief illnesses, nope, I’m afraid of simply not being here. And that’s childish or not childish—what do I know—up to now I haven’t been able to do anything about it. So I’m always trying to portray attitudes like that of Veronika Voss, to try them out for myself, to see whether they’re possible, whether I could manage to develop such an attitude, to get rid of this fear.

When does it come over you particularly?

Oh, I can’t tell you. It comes over me when I’m writing, when I’m fucking; or during breakfast suddenly I feel afraid.

What do you see as your strong points, your weak points?

Oh, it’s so hard to say such things about yourself, but my strengths and weaknesses are certainly the same thing; there’s this strange compulsion to work, which is certainly a strength and a weakness at the same time.

What does it enable you to get through?

Oh, certainly those dead moments, those empty moments you have in life can be more easily gotten through that way.

Do such moments result from disappointments?

Oh, I don’t think so. I’d say I’m manic-depressive, and I just try to be depressive as seldom as possible. Incredible amounts of work help to bridge the gap.

A person can categorize himself as a democrat, a tyrant, a Christan, a resister, an anarchist, a liberal, a conservative. How do you describe yourself?

I’m a romantic anarchist.



Antichrist: Chronicles of a Psychosis Foretold

Must a child die for the narrative to proceed? In view of one of the most intractable and widespread of tales, the death of Christ, being central to one of the most widespread of religions, is there any surprise to this? Even the Old Testament has its close analogue, with the near sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. It would appear that such a proto-narrative is deeply engrained in social memory, as much as it’s reverse, patricide/matricide, and resides as a reflection of both biological imperatives as well as those organising social structures. Is this the cautionary tale of what happens to those who do not protect the progeny of the species? In Antichrist, however, there is one final twist. In the epilogue, a repeated telling of this narrative driver, there is a reverse shot structure which does not appear in the prologue: the child walks towards the bathroom and sees his parents in the Freudian “Primal Scene”. There is then an ambiguity in what follows. “She” has seen her child, but does not stop the sex. Has the child’s gaze met hers? This is not made clear with any resultant reverse shot. In a paranoid reading of a demonic progeny of a possessed maternal body, it is entirely possible to construct a narrative where the child, in fact, is following a preordained path, it’s own destruction, an Anti-Christian sacrifice of the child of Satan, in order to put in train the eventual destruction of the mother and the father. This would be a turn-around in the interpretation of the entire narrative. The child then becomes not the innocent cause of the battle between the mother’s psychosis and the father’s paranoia, but joins the ranks of “evil children” of cinema, alongside those appearing in The Bad Seed (Mervyn LeRoy, 1956), The Omen (Richard Donner, 1976) and of course, again, Rosemary’s Baby (and needlessly conveniently for such an argument, is named “Nic”).

Hermann Hesse

The dream of death is only the dark smoke
Under which the fires of life are burning.

We fear death, we shudder at life’s instability, we grieve to see the flowers wilt again and again, and the leaves fall, and in our hearts we know that we, too, are transitory and will soon disappear. When artists create pictures and thinkers search for laws and formulate thoughts, it is in order to salvage something from the great dance of death, to make something last longer than we do.

Camille Saint-Saëns, “Danse Macabre – Symphonic Poem Op.40”

According to legend, “Death” appears at midnight every year on Halloween. Death calls forth the dead from their graves to dance their dance of death for him while he plays his fiddle represented by a solo violin with its E-string tuned to an E-flat in an example of scordatura tuning. His skeletons dance for him until the rooster crows at dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year.

The piece opens with a harp playing a single note, D, twelve times which is accompanied by soft chords from the string section. This then leads to the E flat and A chords also known as a tritone or the “Devil’s chord”, and the solo violin’s E string is tuned a half step lower to create this effect played by a solo violinist, which represents death. After which the main theme is heard on a solo flute and is followed by a descending scale on the solo violin which is accompanied by soft chords from the string section, particularly the lower instruments of the string section, followed by the full orchestra who then joins in on the descending scale. The main theme and the scale is then heard throughout the various sections of the orchestra until it breaks to the solo violin and the harp playing the scale. The piece becomes more energetic and climaxes with the full orchestra playing very strong dynamics. Towards the end of the piece, there is another violin solo, now in modulation, which is then joined by the rest of the orchestra. The final section represents the dawn breaking and the skeletons returning to their graves.

The piece makes particular use of the xylophone to imitate the sounds of rattling bones. Saint-Saëns uses a similar motif in the Fossils movement of The Carnival of the Animals.

I’m always happy when the Wikipedia pages for certain pieces of music are well-written and informative, I end up with a whole other level of appreciation for it. The Danse Macabre is awesome enough on its own, but the extra little facts are really worth reading.

The clock strikes midnight, so you know what that means. Time for the dead to dance once more.