Death (By Regeneration) Of A Nation
We’ve mentioned it before numerous times here on FLUSH about the sterling restoration series that STUDIOCANAL are very tastefully building up. The latest in this collection is the somewhat excellent ‘Lola’ (1981) by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the phenomenally prolific West German film maker who directed at least forty films in his very short career (15 years) having died at the age of 37 after a cocktail of drugs, he seemingly led the ‘enfant terrible’ life he portrayed, certainly in ‘Lola’.
Fassbinder was a member of the New German Cinema (60s, 70s, 80s) influenced by the very low budgets and honesty/experimentation of French New wave, taking the lives of ordinary folk and giving them the grand stage of the silver screen to tell their seemingly small tales.
‘Lola’ works on so many levels that it is difficult where to start. On one level it’s a simple parable, as a new Germany is planned and constructed out of the rubble of a huge global war fuelled by ideology, now the spoils of war for the ‘victors’ USA, England, France and Russia, (the German Empire was divided amongst these nations post war) it effectively became another battleground for the post traumatically stressed spiritual identity of the German people. A whole new future, but at what cost, what is identity when ideology is a commodity that can be traded.
It also works as an analysis of a nation where once it was seeped in history and tradition it seems to have forgotten (sold) all that structure for the bright garish lights and greed of American capitalism/neo-liberalism, which is apparent in the beautifully colourful and somewhat garish lighting setups throughout the movie that glow of American Californian surf movies of the 60s. The old is cast out, maybe a necessary cathartic detox of the elements that led to war.
Then in this overtly masculine world the slow emergence of the potential of the empowered woman in the form of Lola (Barbara Sukowa), who despite her profession as a whore, is in far more control of the environment than the ridiculously misogynistic men surrounding her may think. While the men constantly gorge themselves on drink in the fog and stench of phallic cigars, the smoke is like a cover for their vulnerability, anger and self doubts, overcompensating for historical defeats, male bravado can be blown away with a gentle breeze.
Von Bohm (Armin Mueller-Stahl) arrives into town as the new local building commissioner, he’s an older principled, old guard honest man of integrity who fought in the War. The town is effectively being run by corrupt property developers who wholeheartedly embrace the greed and opulent excesses of the new Germany. It at once shows the old and new Germany in an existential battle, where principles are swapped for window dressings, trophies and new TVs to tell us what we should be buying with their hollow new wealth.
Von Bohm is potentially trouble for the greedy and his principles will cost them their champagne binging, an Achilles heal must be found. In theory every person has a price, so the venture to find his begins.
As faith, luck (for the developers) or conditioning would have it, the facade of Brohm’s demeanour hides the tragedy he experienced in War, duty in office seems to hold him together, almost like a self induced therapy. But distraction, and normally restricted or corralled emotions rise when he chances upon a meeting with a much younger Lola, this vibrant new lascivious Germany, that Brohms is completely oblivious to the realities of. Something clicks in both of them, maybe the hope of salvation, enlightenment or completion, opposites attract, but that doesn’t mean it will work, self delusion being one of our universal traits.
Part comedy, farce, political statement, sociology, tragedy, drama and a whole heap of theatre, it’s a wonderful blend of elements in a brilliant study of a period of time (then and now). Though completely different in tone it had me thinking of ‘The Long Good Friday’ (1980) which also dealt with the emergence of a vicious bloodthirsty greed that was Thatcherism flooding the UK like a plague and has been subsequently perpetrated by successive governments right up to today, in 2017.
All that is evident, but it can be viewed on much more straight forward levels too, a bizarre love story of broken hearts and mortar. Either way it’s a fantastic looking movie whose 4K restoration be enjoyed on multiple viewings, with a couple of extras interviews giving a fascinating backdrop to the whole story.
8/10 ‘Lola’ is available now on DVD, Blu-ray and streaming services.