Love is Colder than Death opens with a Godardian blank wall; two thugs are waiting for an interview. Hans Hirschmuller starts the action off by approaching Fassbinder for a cigarette, and is beaten up for his trouble. It’s crazy and spontaneous acting, and a typical non-realistic and almost silly Fassbinder portrayal of violence.
Yeah, it’s silly in a film; but not on stage. And the lack of realism persists, and there is a scene in which Peter, played by Hirschmuller and the other actors make the most uncomfortable looking beds one could ever imagine, out of two blankets each – and this is followed by some equally strange washing in cold water – but what we’re seeing is all the men together, not just lowlife and gangsters, but the exact sort of unfortunates that Fassbinder found and loved in the novel Berlin Alexanderplatz – and of this crew, Hirschmulller has the real baby face.
Hirschmuller reminds me of Plato in Rebel Without a Cause, in his vulnerability and the fact that his suit looks like it is the first one he has ever worn. There is a homosexual component too, and though it’s not overt, it’s still obvious in the way these men react. And for me, the first positive drama of the film comes to a resolution shortly after this, when Fassbinder’s character offers Hirschmuller that cigarette that got him into trouble in the opening shot.
It’s the end of one story and the beginning of another, and indication of the piecemeal cinema that is to follow. As Fassbinder moves on, his plots and his direction to actors develops, but here the subject is waiting; waiting for an interview; waiting for a shooting; waiting for a client, waiting at the bank to make a withdrawal; always waiting and he shoots it very well.
Lesson one is more than easily done; actors in character well framed. And it is cinema after all.