Faustrecht der Freiheit
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Federal Republic of Germany, 1975, Carlotta Films
Fox, an unemployed man, wins the lottery. At the insistence of his lover, Eugen, the son of a business owner, as penniless as he is snobby, Fox buys a flat. A fortunate situation which Eugen exploits unduly. When they visit the empty flat for the first time Eugen furnishes the space with his imagination and Fox’s money. The camera’s position behind the stairs, right from the start, isolates the characters in a cage, at the bottom of the frame. Fox and his Friends is a film that doesn’t fear didacticism, making it a cold, precise tool of analysis. The visit starts then, but not from the characters point of view. A pan through the space shows how Eugen’s designs and wishes have been respected, with chandeliers and framed pictures, giving the flavour of the arrogance of the petit-bourgeois. The shot is made up of several sequences, all of which are tinged with humiliation for Fox. When he finally appears from the bottom of the frame, he looks like a suspicious mouse emerging from his hole. He does not follow Eugen. He prefers to escape by leaving the frame. The surprising choice of the 180 degree pan, in which Fox reappears in close up, underlines the tension between the two men and how they do not communicate, they never even look each other in the eye. Eugene feels totally in tune with the narcissistic nest of a place he has conceived for himself, which we see as he adjusts himself in front of the mirror, claiming that he is proud of himself, whereas Fox is uncomfortable in this space that he calls ‘a museum’. This space was supposed to be a refuge from the world for them as a couple, but it has turned into a instrument of class oppression that denies and crushes the other. Even smoking, here in their home, has become an unwelcome, proletarian gesture. The sequence ends as it began, with a decisive camera move that takes us into the bedroom. It is the peak of kitsch, and clearly bodes misfortune which will fall with a terrible irony like a guillotine or a final curtain.