Satansbraten is a film of highs – and when each high is reached in terms of comedy or situation, it is played out for ten minutes, until everything seems calm again, and it’s then that we receive the next shock – usually in the form of a moment of realisation for Kranz. One of these comes when Ernst is upset later on, sad that his mother may be ill, and Kranz is suddenly reminded he has parents of his own. This is a great opportunity for him to get some more money, so off he goes to rob them.
Brigitte Mira in a strange white wig looks mad and medieval and is clearly frightened to see her predatory son return. Fassbinder enjoys domesticity so much, and in any viewing of his films, one always notices how he prefers to film inside, rather than out – and here all he does is shift the action from one Kranz household to another, for a bit of shocking inter-family abuse, spied on by Margit Carstensen. Kranz’s mother, it turns out, is foibly mad too – she hides their funeral money each day, but then forgets where it is, and panics and shakes slightly, like a weak-minded child.
The way that Mira bustles forward and says to her son: ‘I saw you on television – three years ago – in September’ sets it up perfectly, before Kurt Raab’s slimy and vile approach for money seals the deal.
Brigitte Mira was a godsend for Fassbinder. She could act anything, and knows herself and her limits well enough to slant any audience towards a climax, generally by appearing one thing and turning out to be another. I love the way she looks at her monster of a son, because it is this that adds the necessary detail to the film, and because her house is disconcertingly normal, we have the sense that it is the normal and the anonymous who suffer the most — put upon by idiots, bullies and other fascists.