Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Angst vor der Angst aka Fear of Fear (1975)
For a long, in-depth review; see Jim’s Reviews link
From Bill’s Movie Emporium:
The story presented in Angst Vor Der Angst isn’t original by any means, although in 1975 I’m sure it had some originality to it. Originality doesn’t matter though, because Angst Vor Der Angst is about a quality director taking a relatively simple subject and turning it into a great movie. Angst Vor Der Angst is a dramatic tale, yet it is a tale we can relate to. Some of the characters may seem cliche, but they aren’t over the top and most of us have had a domineering mother-in-law or a bothersome sister-in-law in our lives.
Fassbinder spends a great deal of time setting up his characters, this ensures that they feel fully fleshed out. No matter how unessential the character may seem, Karli for example, that character is developed so that they are a living breathing person. Fassbinder also uses the establishing moments of the film to lend an air of interpretation to the film. While Angst Vor Der Angst ends up as a postpartum depression tale, at the onset it is a film that can be any number of things. It can be taken as a postpartum depression story, or an allegory for the lack of understanding towards womanhood in modern society, or the role women are supposed to play in society or even a take on the loss of rebellion as society moved from the 60’s to the 70’s. Angst Vor Der Angst is a film that gives the mind many a place to go, there’s never a moment in this film where you aren’t thinking.
The two areas that left the largest impression are me were 1) the way Fassbinder looked at the family structure, both as its own entity and in regards to how it deals with something like a mother’s illness and 2) the complete ignorance in 1970’s society towards any sort of mental illness.
Both points are brilliantly played out through the idea of perspective. Nothing can actually be wrong with Margot, every person she interacts with places their own perspective on her problem. The family unit is fine in the eyes of Kurt, but it’s clear to everyone else that something is wrong. What is actually wrong doesn’t matter, the people on the outside looking in place their own perspective on the situation and Fassbinder deftly handles this aspect of the film. Once Margot is diagnosed, incorrectly at first, she isn’t met by all those around her with acceptance, rather some people in her life treat her as reprehensible for being sick. Sadly, some people to this day still hold true to being ignorant towards any form of mental illness.
By watching Fassbinder films I have become a major fan of Irm Hermann, Lore in Angst Vor Der Angst. I have seen her three times so far and each time she plays a different type of person and sells it perfectly. In Angst Vor Der Angst she is spot on with her portrayal of the meddlesome sister-in-law that you just wish would go away. However, Angst Vor Der Angst was held together by the performance of Margit Carstensen as Margot. She was subtle in her portrayal of depression and throughout the film her need for some sort of sense in her life washes off of her in waves.
I have really liked what I have seen of Rainer Werner Fassbinder so far, and Angst Vor Der Angst is the best I’ve seen to this point. It’s a well structured drama with interesting characters and a great job of acting in the lead. It avoids the pitfalls of most dramas by staying away from melodrama and focusing on the strength of its characters and the open nature of the story. With Angst Vor Der Angst I have yet another Fassbinder film that I vehemently suggest you make the time to see.