What makes Lola one of Fassbinder’s best, and makes it stand out from those around and about it, such as Veronika Voss, is Barbara Sukowa, combined with that splendid ensemble work in creating the neurotic small German town; and this marvellous music. There are as usual several constant themes throughout the film, generally used again and again, though not I would argue, overused.
Take two short scenes, the jewellery shop scene in which Von Bohm buys a ring; and then with a brief interlude in the church, the barn scene, in which Lola and Von Bohm take shelter from the rain. It doesn’t matter how the scenes end; the first concludes with Von Bohm’s sudden decision to ask Lola to marry him, and the second with Lola’s offering herself on the hay. Both feature the same sweet tune, reminiscent of pastoral days and romance , played on violin and flute, and as each scene ends, the music sharpens up, into an ascending pizzicato on the harp or guitar, suddenly threatening and in an augmented chord, as the dissolve hits the action. It’s a refrain repeated constantly throughout the film, with the effect that everything trots along, always creating a little more suspense.
On the dissolve, and as an aside, Fassbinder seems to have taken a certain amount of joy from trying as many different dissolves, fades and wipes as could be contrived throughout his career – although he always sticks to the same style for each film, obviously. In Lola, the dissolve is one of the most noticeable features of the film and achieved in camera as opposed to in edit, with a rapid loss of focus, often as I’ve said above accompanied by suspenseful chords. In each case the focus is entirely lost, only to be regained in time to hone in on the first moments of the next scene. It’s an effect that matches the violent and striking colours used throughout; it also instils a sense of unity in the viewer, much in the way that the repetition of a theme tune or images do in capturing television audiences.
One of the many touches is a tiny drumroll that goes with the character of Esslin, who is also a drummer, and pivotal to the action; and what is amazing about Peer Raben and Fassbinder is that they change theme and style so quickly in individual scenes, far less pictures.