From the YouTube Movie Archives I: Das Kleine Chaos

My preoccupation with Fassbinder continues this week as we turn to the complete “Das Kleine Chaos”, a short film he made in 1966 when he was about 20 years old. It’s 9 minutes long and stars Fassbinder himself as the leader of a trio of young thieves who give a poor woman much more grief than it would seem they need to for just a little spare cash. I’ll quote that guy Jim for a synopsis of the plot:

Theo (Christoph Roser), Marite (Marite Greiselis), and Franz (Fassbinder) cannot make any money selling magazines door to door – not even from a Frau Eder (played by Fassbinder’s mother). Franz grouses, “I’d like to see a gangster movie that ends well for once.” The three friends use their knowledge of American crime movies to rob, and in Franz’s case to humiliate, a woman. Among other things, he asks her point blank, “Do you love the Führer?” She does not know what to say. Theo apologetically explains that “Sometimes he goes a little crazy.” As the three robbers ask each other what they are going to do with the money, Franz says, “I’m going to the movies!” Cut to the three bounding out of the apartment building, to make a clean getaway in their Volkswagen.

According to Jim the movie ‘reveals some of Fassbinder’s recurring themes, including the ambiguous nature of crime, the treatment of women, and – although in embryonic form – the legacy of Nazism.’ Well, maybe, yes, and yes. I’d rather state that not only the characters, but perhaps even the movie itself seems morally repulsive until you shake yourself free of the illusion that you have willingly allowed yourself to be seduced by (unless you turn it off, which is quite possible, or even probable, since whoever posted it on YouTube forgot to turn on the subtitles).

I especially like the way he uses music in the film. The jazzy sax intro at the beginning recalls all those French noir films that Fassbinder wants to invoke. Later the Franz character calls for Wagner as a kind of soundtrack to accompany the three during the robbery, but when Marite puts on Beethoven’s Emperor concerto, he says something like “That’s good”. Then he proceeds to shove a pistol in the woman’s face, slap her, and set fire to a picture of a nude hanging on her wall. So much for Deutsche Musik und Kultur; so much for das land der dichter und denker, I guess, at least until we’ve arrived at the age of Fassbinder according to Fassbinder. He seems to be looking somewhere else for inspiration as the characters make their getaway, and the Troggs start blasting “I Can’t Control Myself”.

Oh no / I can’t stand still cause you’ve got me going / Your slacks are low and your hips are showing / I take you girl as you’re standing there / Your low cut slacks and your long black hair / Don’t want you going around with no one else / Cause when I’m with you I can’t control myself …

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