Derek Smith review for www.cinematicreflections.com
Fassbinder’s Dogme-style look at bourgeois complacency and the extreme limits people can be driven to by quietly conforming to society’s pressures certainly tests the viewer’s patience, but is nonetheless a fascinating and original look at topic that is often brushed over via satire or dark comedy rather than dealt with head on. Much of the conversation in the film was improvised and is (purposefully) as boring as being a fly on the wall in the home of a very dull couple. It includes a series of social interactions between Herr R. and his wife, parents, neighbors, and co-workers with no distinct narrative shifts or moments of internal rage. The dialogue runs together and Herr R.’s inability to connect with anyone creates a rift between himself and the world he was once a part of.
Action shot #1
Like Van Sant’s Elephant, Fassbinder’s camera is unobtrusive, capturing the moments as they happen with no attempt to explain the inexplicable. The mundane becomes fascinating because it is real and free from cinematic conventions that dictate the precise peaks and valleys within the arc of the story. Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? mimics the drone of mindless noise and superficiality that pervades the lives of so many people and gives evidence that the bizarre and unexpected often stem from the excruciating pain and boredom of every day life.
Spectacular shot #2
It may not sound like much but as the meaningless conversations and unbearable situations at Herr R.’s home and work pile up, his silent martyrdom becomes more and more apparent. Fassbinder’s intense focus on reaction shots stress his disinterest with what is being said and he instead chooses to capture the subtle shifts in mindset as these seemingly insignificant but painful moments relentlessly wear on Herr R. until his inevitable final cathartic release. Like all Fassbinder films, love is a large part of the equation and here he is adept at portraying a marriage that is convincingly “healthy” while the complete absence of love is blatantly clear.
Awesome shot #3
The film becomes a symptom of the disease it fights, making light social interactions feel dull but necessary to maintain a certain level of communal respect. The language becomes white noise piercing Herr R.’s ears, preventing him from having a moment of peace and squashing his every honest and heartfelt expression and attempt to relate to those closest to him. Its condemnation of the acceptance of life as determined by societal convention is so strongly felt that the extremity of the finale is, in a frightening way, as encouraging as it is disturbing. It’s not that we welcome Herr R.’s action as much as his long-awaited attack against his oppressive environment finally puts an end to the insufferable monotony that surrounds him. It is sudden, shocking, and utterly brilliant.
Climax shot #4