Pioneers in Ingolstadt (1971)

21 06 2008

Another early Fassbinder television production. Just like with Rio Das Mortes, this is very austere and the film stock is very grainy. Once again, the subject matter revolves around young adults / “slackers” looking for more substance out of their relationships. Unlike Rio Das Mortes, the film operates from a female perspective, which gives Hanna Schygulla plenty of screen time. Thus, it isn’t the most difficult of movies to sit through, but even with Fassbinder’s good intentions, the production values prevent stronger reactions. It’s a good film, but never amounts to anything more than just a few solid cinematic moments strung together half-heartedly.

A group of young army engineers come to the town of Ingolstadt in order to construct a new bridge. Bored by the repetitious nature of their labor, they seek out several forms of escapism: sex, alcohol, and violence. Meanwhile, a naive maid by the name of Berta is looking for love. She finds it in the form of Karl, but he sees nothing in her. A seasoned veteran, he has gone through many short-lived affairs and sees his relationship with Berta in a similar light. Despite his resistance to love, Berta is heart-broken when he leaves.

Depending on how one thinks of Hanna Schygulla, this film is either very interesting or skull-crushingly boring. I, obviously, fall into the former category, but this doesn’t really mean the film is cohesively great. All things considered, Fassbinder probably quickly threw this (and most of his other early TV productions) together rather quickly. Therefore, you cannot really blame him for the film essentially not going anywhere, in an emotional sense. Even if it hits close to home (and it does for me) there simply isn’t enough there for the film to work for anything more than a curious exercise in formalism for Fassbinder. Of course, it is definitely worth watching, but it isn’t particularly special.

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