Fassbinder remake in cinemas: An unhealthy love

With “Peter von Kant”, director François Ozon has reworked a Fassbinder film. In it he playfully plays with references.

Three men stand in a row, facing the camera

Bitter tears? "Peter von Kant" Photo: Carole Bethuel

If you haven't carefully studied the cast list of François Ozon's new film, "Peter von Kant", you could be mistaken right at the beginning: Graceful, thin, ethereal, Karl (Stefan Crépon) walks into the luxurious Cologne apartment and immediately reminds you of Margaret Carstensen. It was Carstensen who in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant" (1972) gave the unstable, sometimes short-tempered, then flattering main character her almost uncanny countenance.

But the confusion is quickly dissipated when one realizes that Ozon's adaptation of the classic has little intention of external replication. The director is more concerned with revealing Fassbinder's personal desires in a way that was encoded in the original work using a complicated lesbian love triangle.

Fifty years later, with a few exceptions, the characters have changed sex. Petra von Kant became Peter (Denis Ménochet), from the factotum Marlene (Irm Hermann) Karl, and the center of Petra's passion, Karin Thimm (Hanna Schygulla), is now the young, beautiful Amir Ben Salem (Khalil Gharbia).

Connections that you might not be able to understand just by looking at “Peter von Kant”. However, director Ozon himself hardly fails to play with cross-references again and again. Peter von Kant, here a filmmaker and not a fashion designer like Petra, realizes the material "Love is hotter than death" and of course means Fassbinder's first feature film "Love is colder than death".

Ozone works a lot with twin characters

The muse of yesteryear was Hanna Schygulla, at Ozon and Peter her name is Amir. Ozone's fascination with duplication, confusion, and transformative gender comes as no surprise. Again and again appear in his works Twin characters on ("The Other Lover")It comes to Unusual Entanglements ("A New Girlfriend").

And he also devotes himself to the reinterpretation of existing fabrics with fervor. His film, which started in Germany in the spring "Everything went well" was based on Emmanuèle Bernheim's autobiographical memoirs“A New Friend” is based on a short story of the same name by Ruth Rendell.

Meanwhile, in “Peter von Kant”, Ozon also follows theatrical tracks: Peter's glamorous center of life, located in Cologne and on the threshold of madness, resembles Petra's Flokati paradise in Bremen. The blinds through which Marlene once peered so guardingly and longingly are also often found near Karl.

Last but not least, it is the metaphorical composition of the image that Ozon tries his hand at, sometimes in a rather bizarre way. Once Amir, recently charmed by the hitherto boring successful director Peter, is sitting at the dining table in a red sweater. Karl has served reddish king prawns, strange, fiery red mannequins are building up behind Amir.

Border crossing with camera

Peter happily eats the shellfish, slurps, sucks, sucks on them. And soon one is no longer sure whether the greed is really only for the seafood or not for the innocent Amir. After all, the opulent genius had only just assimilated his tragic life story with the camera, and at points in the story where compassion would have called for deactivation, he only pushed the object of desire even further.

“Peter von Kant” thus tells of the same obsessive, unhealthy love that Petra captured when she saw Karin. A dependency quickly developed, followed by a loss of control. Petra crawled on the floor in a haze and full of pain, begging and cursing Karin at the same time. And while Petra's soundtrack came from The Platters and their lugubrious 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes', Ozone's Isabelle Adjani sings 'Everybody Kills What They Love' for Peter.

It is this Isabelle Adjani who brings the greatest joy. While the figure of Sidonie von Grasenabb (Katrin Schaake) unfortunately soon disappeared from Fassbinder's memory, it was given new glamor in the form of Adjani. As a coke-crazed and over-the-top starlet, she swarms around Peter von Kant, pretends to be a confidant yet has no idea, sets the stage for Amir and a little later makes love to him herself, pretending to be content with money alone while also craving fame plays no small role.

To witness this refreshing return of Sidonie is the real happiness of a film that tells of a melodramatic decline and cavorts in the reference, but above all tells of the murky waters and ugly excesses of show business. Possibly a message from Ozone lies hidden in it, an emergency encoded. The question remains as to who intends to take care of them in fifty years.

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