Elvira's impulse in In a Year of 13 Moons to visit the reclusive Saitz is doomed from the start, but is the core of the film, and although the journey from man to woman is partially completed, despite two attempts to rerun, one at the beginning and one at the end, it is the main journey of the film. In moving through Saitz’s office, with its peculiar cast of Kafkan characters, Günther Kaufmann appears as the final barrier – the mythical gatekeeper as it were.
In Günther Kaufmann’s first appearance in Fassbinder’s The Niklashausen Journey, listening to the prophet describe economics in a huge and empty quarry, he cuts a striking figure; as striking as he ever does in any of his film appearances. How great he looked in this era; and better than great — powerful. In fact in 1970, in Europe, Günther Kaufmann must have been the ultimate dude to have in your circle. As the camera shots are all pretty identical in this film – the slow static zoom or the travelling dolly – it helps if you do look powerful.
Spend enough time with Fassbinder, and it … well it can become like collecting. It means that in the later films, it’s always a pleasure to see an actor like Günther Kaufmann , whom we could consider old-school Fassbinder; or such an important part of the stable, that he can truly be called a Fassbinder actor, which I think is fair in his case. He is one of the absolute central figures to Fassbinder’s cinema, although his appearances are sometimes purely talismanic.