The American Soldier (1970)

8 06 2008

Even by the standards of early Fassbinder, this film is remarkably cold and austere. At times, it almost becomes ridiculous just how mechanically certain events unfold. Normally, it would be easy to write the film off on the prospect of it being so close to self-parody alone, but the final fifteen minutes represent Fassbinder at his most heartbreaking. He’s working towards this for the film’s entire running time but only towards the end, does it all seem to mesh into one of the strangest yet tragic endings in all of cinema. Undeniably frustrating to those unwilling to participate in something new, but extremely rewarding for those that get over the initial uncomfortable feelings brought on by Fassbinder’s very detached style.

Ricky, a contract killer, returns to Germany after a stay in America, where he most likely served in the Vietnam War. The cops begin to use him as a hitman to take care of local criminals. In between these errands, Ricky returns to the locations of his childhood with his old buddy Franz Walsch, revisits his mother and his emotional perplexed brother. He still has plenty of free time, though, not to mention very sad and lonely. He calls up the front desk of the hotel he is residing at and asks for a woman. The cops send Rosa, who falls in love with Ricky but there’s many people standing in their way of a new life.

One needs only to look at the IMDB comments to see just frustrating the style of early Fassbinder be for an audience. Of course, anyone who expects a straight-forward gangster and/or noir flick will be tremendously disappointed and perhaps, infuriated. But even those who are conscious of the film’s artiness may end up befuddled by the mechanical performances. It’s completely reasonable to be turned off just on the acting alone, but it is important to realize that the acting isn’t mechanical and unnatural because the characters are symbols or metaphors, or anything like that. No, it’s clear that Fassbinder took more than a few (fictitious) courses on Bresson’s acting ideas. If you can’t see just how heartbreaking and painful the final fifteen minutes of this film is, then there’s a good chance you don’t have a pulse.

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One response

9 06 2008
olof

Great review

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