I Only Want You to Love Me (Rainer Werner Fassbinder / West Germany, 1976):
(Ich will doch nur, daß ihr mich liebt)

The title is supplicated by Vitus Zeplichal, on his knees midway through the picture and midway through his spiritual deterioration. When first seen, he's building a home for his parents, who love him for two weeks before things get back to normal; as a boy, he steals flowers for his cold mother (Erni Mangold), who bends him over a chair for the coat hanger beating, recorded in pitiless long shot -- both the flowers and the pain will haunt him. The character framed in anxious close-up with a stuffed bird looming in the background shows Rainer Werner Fassbinder has seen a previous tale about a boy and his mother, and the intensity here all but matches Psycho's, emotional brutality erupting into physical chaos. Zeplichal meets his beloved, Elke Aberle, who lovingly tells him "You look like the first dog I had... a schnauzer" as they amble through industrial dunes; a forward-track-zoom-out through a window lands the bricklayer a job and points to Munich, where he and his bride are headed. Able to translate feeling solely into property, Zeplichal's dolorous void becomes his inability to keep up with the materialism all around him; champagne is ordered as their bills stack up, Aberle is haplessly fitted into a dress while trying to tell her husband of her pregnancy. Fassbinder here is on a TV schedule, yet his every image slices like a shiv, streamlined brutally into a compressed temporal frame -- awkward wooing segues into the tense wedding party, a flashback later cuts from the couple's first fuck, with both facing the camera vulnerably naked, to the birth of their baby boy. Visiting a headachy Mangold, their reflection on a wall mirror freezes into tableau; floral bouquets turn as deadly as wreaths, a title card nails the Freudian coffin ("The money arrived the next day. Without any greeting. Almost like an insult."). "A child needs his mother," Fassbinder laments through Zeplichal, who accumulates the miseries of Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? and Merchant of Four Seasons until it detonates onto a paternal doppelganger, clearing the screen to leave its despairing culmination, arms thrown aloft in freeze-frame. Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus. With Alexander Allerson, and Johanna Hofer.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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