VenueWalter Reade Theater
An adaptation of the 1924 play by Marieluise Fleisser, one of Brecht’s protégé’s, this is a prime example of Brecht’s concept of “epic theater,” and a fascinating attempt to translate those famous distancing techniques to the cinema. Completed for German television right before production on the similar if less restrained Whity, the film depicts the conflicts within a group of soldiers building a bridge in the provincial town of Ingolstadt. The aggressive young recruits live out their motto “Where there is no war, we’ll have to make one” in ways both trivial and profoundly dangerous. Young soldier Karl (Harry Baer) nonchalantly courts local beauty Berta (Hanna Schygulla), who has fallen in love with him, if only as a change from the boorish types she’s used to. The field officer in charge of the bridge project vents his self-hatred and obsession with all things masculine by tormenting his subordinates, and Fassbinder finds chilling parallels between the abusive environment of military service, the oppressive conformity of civilian life, and the stifling, arbitrary games of courtship.