literature, cinema, fine arts

Lili Marleen (1980)

Fates from the density of new German cinema

  • Produced by Müpa Budapest

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Lili Marleen is a hit. It is incredibly kitsch, though it's becoming increasingly harder to define what kitsch is, exactly. The poem written by Hans Leip at the time of the First World War was set to music by Norbert Schultze, and became successful mainly through a performance by Lale Andersen, before in World War Two it became a massive catchy smash at the frontline on both sides of the divide. In Fassbinder's hands it becomes a melodrama, not that this particular genre is typical of the director. You can rightly wonder whether the film isn't really be about the painful tale of the Aryan singer (Hanna Schygulla) and the Jewish pianist and composer (Giancarlo Giannini).

If someone were to draw a parallel between István Szabó's Mephisto and Lili Marleen, it would come as no surprise. "But it's just a song...” says Lili Marleen. A similar era to Mephisto, with the two films also made around the same time. The genre is unquestionably different, as the structure of melodrama can also entail romance, high waves of emotions and the movement of resistance. (In relation to the latter, Fassbinder inserts himself as one of the leaders of the resistance.) In this story, however, the little chanson singer who becomes a star is unable to make sensible decisions. Only her heart decides. The song outgrows her. (With knowing irony, Fassbinder includes the endlessly played super hit in the ranks of torture devices.) The director, however, is deeply absorbed by the question of the intentions of the government for what is otherwise no more than a sentimental, homesick and nostalgic song. Not to mention the person tied to the song too. And there is something else. Something we hear less of in relation to films focusing on the destructive reign of the Third Reich: are they capable of preserving the moral superiority, the respect of the victims? Doesn't the dictatorship produce public distrust and paranoia in the victims? It is a strange song, that's for sure.

In German, with Hungarian subtitles.
The discussions before and after the screening will be conducted in Hungarian.

Presented by: Müpa Budapest
  • director
    Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • host
    András Réz

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