High camp and claustrophobia abound equally in the hermetic rooms where fashion designer Petra von Kant (Margit Carstensen), her model flavor-of-the-week (Hanna Schygulla), and a faithful, longtime love slave (Katrin Schaake) enact the cruel cat-and-mouse games that comprise the plot of this chamber psychodrama. With perhaps the richest and most allusive mise en scène in Fassbinder’s oeuvre—impenetrable spaces in which ornate tapestries, white mannequins, and ’50s pop hits intermingle—The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant amounts to its director’s ultimate thesis on the essentially vampiric and selfish nature of love. In the words of Manny Farber: “Fassbinder’s intense shadowless image is not like anyone else’s.”

  • Directed By Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • 1972
  • West Germany
  • 35mm
  • 124 minutes