Sunday, July 22, 2007
I Dream of Fassbinder: Part I
True story: all of my personal issues converged recently in a lucid dream I had about discovering a lost Fassbinder script. Normally, I wouldn't expect people to give a crap about something I dreamt, but come on... Fassbinder? Who dreams about Fassbinder? You've got to be at least a little interested based solely on the rare opportunity at mining Freudian-comic gold.
Anyway, in my dream I took it upon myself to complete this unfinished masterwork. I think I was channeling Kieslowski's Blue or maybe Forman's Amadeus. I read the script, which was written in German (I cannot read German)--little more than a sketch, actually--but being vaguely familiar with about a third of his oeuvre, came to understood clearly the late director's intention.
Unlike in real life, the daunting challenge of setting about to actually finish something in my dream was easily overcome with a vigorous sense of righteousness and inflated self-worth. Of course. It all made sense. I was the true heir to Fassbinder's legacy of misery, pain and self-loathing. How could it be otherwise?
The working title of the sketch escapes me now, several days after the fact. What I remember clearly is that it was a name, a German name, composed of two parts out of which one could presume a simple pun. Something like: Grunwelt (Green World) or Baumsohn (Wood's Son). I can't remember so I apologize. I think I was toying with changing the name of the main character anyway to suit my purpose.
So, since you're all dying of curiousity, here's the synopsis (I'm aware I'm breaking my own rule of no plot summaries, but give me a break! I dreamt this whole thing up!). I trust everyone will find it sufficiently Fassbinderian enough to please the master. Drum roll, please:
Grunwelt (or Baumsohn or Glockenspiegel or whatever) is addicted to his own misery. One day, in a fit of despair, he decides to cut off his thumbs. After severing his right thumb with a butcher knife, he learns a valuable lesson: "You cannot cut off both your thumbs. How would you hold the knife? God, in his benevolence, has decreed a limit to one's self-destruction." Soon he becomes obsessed with re-growing his thumb. As an amateur horticulturist, he begins experimenting with grafting live trees to his severed stump. He begins another downward spiral becoming more and more obsessed as it becomes clear that he is also suffering from the weight of some tremendous guilt. Finally, he severs his entire right hand, replacing it with a wooden one.
One day, a woman arrives at his home carrying a young baby. It is his child. The child's mother reports that she can no longer care for the baby on her own. He eagerly seizes the opportunity to welcome the child back into his life, expiating for a moment his burden of guilt. For a short time, the three enjoy the semblance of domestic tranquility, only marginally dimmed by the fact that he is gay and she is a prostitute. The child seems to thrive under Grunwelt's obsessive care and attention, like one of his beloved plants.
Soon, however, the facade begins to crumble as the child's mother feels increasingly suffocated by their arrangement and yearns for independence. Grunwelt attempts to pacify her by fulfilling dual roles as father and mother for the child's sake, but is barely able to manage. He becomes the regular victim of exploitation and abuse from both the child's mother and the world at large in several episodes that seem to highlight the impracticality of raising a child with a wooden hand. Strangely, as his world begins to spiral into intolerability, he is surprised to discover his own capacity for paternal care and self-sacrifice, bonding in furtive moments with his infant son.
Some other stuff happens. Mostly bad. Finally, some careless, random incident results in injury (death?) to the child due to the father's lack of a hand or thoughtless ineptitude. He is left desolate to ponder the cruelty of fate and curse the extravagance of his prior self-pity.
Whoah. That is way too long to spend on a plot summary for a movie which ONLY HAPPENED IN MY HEAD. Now, rather than marvel at its flawlessly Fassbinderian structure and motifs, I'm going to proceed by way of detour: in other words, I will elaborate on what I take to be some of the latent meaning behind this absurd spectacle of my subconscious in relation to Fassbinder and my current life conditions. After some of these connections have been made explicit, I will then provide, by way of example, a positive statement about my governing aesthetic, hopefully illuminating on the way why I decided to name myself in this blog after one of his films and why, recently, I tend to favor him over Bresson, for which, my co-author considers me "stupid." All this to follow in Part II.