Our last port of call on Elvira’s downward spiral is a strange one, especially when at one hour forty five we cut from Elvira’s final decision, when she sees her family for the last time, to a drearyt storyteller climbing a wooden stair with a younger woman. You almost don’t want to hear this story, it seems so late in the film for new characters and scenes, but as with Zora’s fairy tale, the story in itself is a cue if you like, for a rest for Elvira.
When Elvira is revealed the camera goes straight for her shoes and not her face, as she is now a man again, trying to be at least in man’s shoes. Like the start of the film, it is a sign that we are descending.
As this character is something of an amalgam, it’s not clear at first who he is. He acts like Elvira’s doctor, and has advice and encouragement – but like the rest of humanity at this late stage in Elvira’s decline, he cannot help. Other people have their own lives, it appears, and they may be unlikely to stop them to help you, even if you are suicidal.
Zwerenz has one of the best faces for me in Fassbinder – although certainly the best facial hair,. And it’s a pity he’s not in more films. Although he appears to be a doctor, he is the man with whom Elvira did her interview – although in that process, Zwerenz’ character has become friend, confidante and doctor too, almost. But he has a life to live, and we can’t stop that for anybody really. The dialogue is strange. Wheras we have been in the situation of needing help at a late hour, and had friends embarrassedly turn us away, all of that is played out to the last syllable here:
“Well I suppose I could come and drink a beer with you – but if I go out now, I won’t get home till late – and I have to drive the car early tomorrow, you see.’ What is enjoyable in this exchange is Fassbinder’s parading of people’s lame excuses to help each other – especially at this grave eleventh hour, because we all know that within minutes, Elvira is going to be dead, unless someone does something about it. Well, Elvira takes the stairs slowly down as Zwerenz and his wife took them slowly up, and she knows that it is the end – and that there are now no more chances. Death it is then, death it is.
Zwerenz’ wife, who is seen to be driving the rejection of Elvira, moments later in a state of ritual nudity and smoking a cigarette, listens to the interview – nothing short of a taped confession from Elvira, and it is then that Zwerenz changes his mind. He sends Elvira away to kill herself, and when ti is good and safe and he is sure the job must be done by now – he ‘gets a bad feeling’ and must return to Elvira’s house – which he does.