Withheld from US distribution until 1994, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1976 film is a valuable reminder of the late director's cinematic artistry and matchless social acuity. This sad tale of a working-class German driven to violence is told with piercing humor and unexpected irony.
After building a house for his ungrateful and unloving parents, Peter (Vitus Zeplichal) leaves Bavaria to join his wife, Erika (Elke Eberle), in Munich, where he gets a job as a construction supervisor. Peter buys an apartment and new furnishings on credit, which worries Erika, who reveals that
she is pregnant. Peter becomes obsessed with work and money; and his spending habits, coupled with his reluctance to ask his father for money, begin to threaten both his financial well-being and his marriage.
After the baby is born, pressure increases for the couple to earn more money; Erika takes up sewing on a loom in their apartment while Peter secretly borrows money from Erika's grandmother. But finally, in despair over his financial burden, Peter kills her grandmother's landlord, whom he
mistakes for his father. Peter is sent to prison for 10 years. While in prison, Peter discusses his act of murder with a psychiatrist, and realizes that his life in jail is not all that different from his days as a dutiful son and husband.
Based on a true story recounted in the book Life Sentence, by Klaus Antes and Christiane Ehrhardt, I ONLY WANT YOU TO LOVE ME is ostensibly a domestic melodrama. But in Fassbinder's hands, the personal becomes highly political, and the film emerges as an indictment of capitalism, exposing the
dark side of Germany's so-called "Economic Miracle" of the 1970s.
Peter's moral and psychological disintegration is shown as the product of the social, political and economic pressures that engulf him. One memorable set piece occurs when Peter and Erika buy furniture for their new apartment: the couple is forced to endure a ceremony of authoritarian
bureaucracy that drains all the pleasure from the experience. In repeated scenes of Peter's attempts to placate Erika with flowers, Fassbinder mocks the futility of bourgeois social conventions and highlights the odd persistence of the idea of nature in the culture of urban Germany (the
nature/artifice motif also appears in a discussion of consumer objects set in a greenhouse, as well as the forest wallpaper in Peter and Erika's apartment).
Although the film was shot during Fassbinder's "middle period," just as he began to achieve international acclaim, it features performers virtually unknown to international audiences; the less familiar cast, however, reinforces an effect of drab realism. Shot in and around Munich in 1975, the
movie also reflects on the bleak look of a metropolis undergoing vast changes. I ONLY WANT YOU TO LOVE ME is a depressing but wittily observant film; in many ways it is as rich and incisive as Fassbinder's more celebrated and stylized works. (Violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1976
- Rating: NR
- Review: Withheld from US distribution until 1994, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1976 film is a valuable reminder of the late director's cinematic artistry and matchless social acuity. This sad tale of a working-class German driven to violence is told with piercing hu… (more)