Now, I might have to get this out of the way first, but the most difficult aspect of the film is probably its core: Volker Spengler screaming the words of Goethe in a slaughterhouse, to the accompaniment of a Handel organ concerto. It’s to this we must keep returning.
Structurally, the slaughterhouse scene doesn’t add anything in terms of story, and thematically it’s there for a couple of straightforward reasons: firstly Elvira worked there, in the only trade she has really ever had, and one that made her happy; then there’s a reference to Erwin’Elvira’s own operation, and the harsh realities behind it. Often considered also, is Fassbinder’s own interest in the butcher’s trade.
In this film too, we also discover Fassbinder’s love of video. It’s true that around this time, VHS was new, and Fassbinder had readily taken to it, and particularly enjoyed watching Jerry Lewis films. Once Ingrid Caven tells Elvira her fairy-tale, she takes a confessional pose before the television, and switches it on to commence a video-montage Fassbinder has made for insertion.
In classic Fassbinder mode, the video montage is pretty scrappy, quickly done and to the point. I guess most directors would have baulked at the clear tracking and editing problems visible on the tape which is supposed to be Fassbinder’s snapshot of WDR television, but is actually quite crazy and personal in its way. Pinochet / melodrama ? Fassbinder – in a loop.
The montage contains sexplay between Elvira and former lover Christoph, Gertman melodrama, an amazingly well-timed and well-deserved sideswipe at none other than Augusto Pinochet, mixed with out of context interview footage of Fassbinder himself – and it is a relief to see that Fassbinder’s view of what modern German TV drama is, is quite well reflected in his own films – men dominating and abusing women. As Caven looks around Elvira’s apartment, we hear a brief history of Fassbinder’s childhood and the interviewer asking him: ‘Do you fear failing in your personal relationships?’