Veronika Voss

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

W. Germany| 1982. English subtitles. Black and white. 104 mins.

In 1955, Veronika Voss (Rosel Zech) is a washed-up ex-movie star in hock body and soul to the woman who supplies her drug habit. In exchange for morphine, Dr. Marianne Katz (Annemarie Duringer) controls the legacy of the dreams Veronika once sold to the public. Veronika Voss is one of Fassbinder’s most dazzling achievements, in which he applies the mythology of the horror film as a metaphor for cinema while simultaneously invoking the medium’s more strictly historical nightmares. Dr. Katz is a feminised Dr. Mabuse, her practice subsisting not only on bottomed-out film stars but on such victims as the elderly couple who need morphine to allay pain left over from the concentration camps. This is the cinema of paranoia, fed by Fassbinder’s take on relationships built on masochism and sadism. What is different about Veronika Voss is that Fassbinder, having once found in Douglas Sirk the model for an apolitical assault on social conformity, now repatriates other export directors more specifically German in both dramatic and visual ways. With great elan, Veronika Voss recapitulates not only the work of Fritz Lang but the noir style of Robert Siodmak and the fascination with images that lie and corrupt in the films of Billy Wilder, with Sunset Boulevard being a key reference point.

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