As news of General Pinochet’s political corruption in Chile rings over a deserted Frankfurt skyline, we are fortunate to have a look into what Fassbinder really thinks of WDR’s ‘economic miracle’; and we visit Gottfried John as Anton Saitz in an office building, which looks shining and glassy on the outside – but is in fact empty.
Saitz, who started off in the meat trade and then turned to pimping, is the real sign of the new Germany — a man who buys buildings, tears them down, and erects empty new ones, which look great but serve no purpose at all. Although he is a businessman, Saitz is surrounded by thugs and guns, and makes regular armed raids like a gangster, and is so authoritarian and fascistic that when he jumps – his entourage jump too – and when he dances (like Jerry Lewis) they have no alternative but to follow.
Anton Saitz – known for doing unspeakable things to those who misspell his name – is a truly demented creation. Saitz is a holocaust survivor turned pimp, turned nationally renowned businessman, and he is wild, scary and powerful.
Saitz criticises people for becoming too fat. He is in fact, as his name suggests, Zeitgeist personified – greedy, careless, crass. In the brothel that Saitz ran, he used the same techniques to introduce fear, command, and obedience as he had witnessed in the concentration camp.
And there is also in Saitz’s office, a strange dance routine based on a Jerry Lewis film — something that doesn’t add to In a Year of 13 Moons in the conventional sense, but does contribute to the overall flavour, simply in its madness. The world has turned sick again, says Fassbinder, but the media are a part the new fascist scene.
Many people wonder about the point of this dance routine in the film, but we always have to play Fassbinder in context – and in time. Even at the end of the 1970s then, when fascism wasn’t such a distant memory, see how ridiculous and simple it is when people start stepping up and down to the shouted commands of their criminally insane leaders. And irony of irony, this guy isn’t a concentration camp commander, but a concentration camp victim. The scene, which is an unfortunate evocation of Triumph of the Will, is an indication that in terms of the overall story, Elvira has lost, because she has given in too.
Anton Saitz is really the baddie of In a Year of 13 Moons, and although we hear plenty about his evil business empire, he isn’t ultimately responsible for the downfall of Elvira, though he’s certainly involved. He humiliates Elvira in his office, but he still seems interested to see her.
So just think dictatorship when watching Anton Saitz role playing a spoiled little girl in preparation for his dance. Like any decent madman, he can get quite a lot out of losing himself to the moment, and part of his ritual and fantasy (which the other know very well, in terms of timing) is this infantile behaviour as he is chased over and under the spare office furniture. And the dance remains one of the most stupid things in all of German cinema. Period! The power of the goosestep is permanently withdrawn in Saitz’s mad spastic shock.
Naturally Saitz finds it funny that Erwin is back in the form of Elvira, just as he is a little disgusted with Elvira’s size. And so, remembering the old days and Erwin’s good coffee (‘just like my grandma used to make,’) they head off as a gang to Elvira’s house for more humiliation.
And so they leave the building site that it was modern, downtown Frankfurt, and arrive at Elvira’s house amid clichéd apologies for the mess from Elvira. Not that Anton cares for that – in fact it is the funniest thing Saitz and his men have heard all day ‘He bet me you would say that about your place being in a mess. ‘They all say that,’ says the seasoned shagger Saitz, losing himself in laughter on the stairs.
Minutes later Saitz is making love to Rota Zora; and now even she has let him down, his last refuge in this world; but she is only human and if there is one thing that make her forget her care for Elvira, it is sex with a tall handsome stranger – especially one exuding power like Saitz. I guess that when Elvira sees them, man and women, it’s getting near the final reminder. If love is that easy for people to find, why has it eluded her, despite her mammoth efforts to draw it near? Despite goofy music, surreal venues, and melodrama, Saitz’s retelling of the story is the straightest and most direct part of the film – it’s what we have been waiting for, the climax. What happened to Erwin, and why. But Saitz of course really did nothing, other than be Saitz.
When Elvira’s body is discovered, Saitz and Zora are right there making love, and they care for this fact about as much as this fact as they did earlier about the animals.