Fassbinder films can be enjoyed on their own merit - or not, as the case may be. They can also after a while be viewed through the lens of the Fassbinder world, and if you have seen enough of them, this is inevitable, although it’s not the sort of thing that happens with a director like Ridley Scott. The difference is that Ridley Scott doesn’t populate his films with friends and lovers, and tell the stories of his and their lives; but this is how Fassbinder works, and it is all to the good.
Enter Armin Meier, a real Fassbinder actor. Here he is playing Stricher, one of the thugs who comes to exact revenge on the maligned prostitute Lana, and one of the guys who eventually reveals the dysfunctional and blocked writer Walter Kranz, to be the worm that he really is.
I can say that Armin Meier is a real Fassbinder actor, because to my knowledge, he doesn’t appear in the films of any other director, although he does appear with other Fassbinder crew (Karl Scheydt, Klaus Holm, Margit Carsetensen, Michael Ballhaus) in 1978’s Spiel der Verlierer. Armin Meier is much more than thug in Satansbraten; he is the rough. If you have ventured any distance into Fassbinder's work, you will have established his frank attitude to and display of sex.
It is all quite natural, so much so that it is shocking, a contradiction that is pretty profound. In trying to establish himself as a homosexual, Kurt Raab's character Kranz ventures into the pick-up world of the public toilets, where men stroke 'semis' and pick each other for no frills action. Kranz is far from prepared, although Armin Meier seems to act the scene to perfection, as if he had lived this very life...
Enough said about that I think. Certainly Fassbidner and he had known their share of this life, and Armin Meier, here resplendant in beard, is handsome and terrifyingly real as a public toilet dweller. He eventually becomes something lower yet in the Kranz circle, a man paid to pose as a Greek god for the aestehtic benefit of the reincarnated Stefan Georg.
It's a very funny and yet carefully complex joke. The beating that Kranz receives is of course, long overdue. And is overseen by the woman that he has blackmailed and robbed; and although it’s not much of a part — or even a part at all — it is always good to see the Fassbinder ensemble at work.
Meier (1943–78), if you didn’t know, was a butcher who was almost illiterate and was Fassbinder's lover from 1974 to 1978. An overly voyeuristic look into their relationship can be watched in Fassbinder's episode for Germany in Autumn (1978) — but after Fassbinder broke up with him, Meier committed suicide on Fassbinder’s birthday, after Fassbinder rather childishly did not invite Meier to his party. At least I think that is the story. The appearance in Satansbraten tells us again that Meier is always there; he is one of the family. Fassbinder it appeared could make anyone act; and if you consider his other suicidal love, another non-actor El Hedi ben Salem, and think of his and Armin Meier’s other screen roles, this is born out.