Rainer Werner Fassbinder was born to a bourgeois family in Bad
Wörishofen, Bavaria. Famous for his frenetic pace in a career
that lasted nearly 16 years until his death in 1982, Fassbinder
completed 39 films (including six TV movies and series and three
shorts) and four video productions; he directed 24 stage plays,
four radio plays, and worked as an actor, dramatist, cameraman,
composer, designer, editor, producer, and theatre manager.
After a lonely childhood, Fassbinder studied theatre at the Fridl-
Leonhard Studio before joining the Munich Action-Theater group
where he met the tight group of players and technicians who
would form a surrogate family for him. Despite tortured personal
relationships, Fassbinder molded professional film and theatre
stars out of the likes of Hanna Schygulla and Kurt Raab. His
first forays into cinema, such as Love is Colder than Death and
Katzelmacher (both 1969) were highly influenced by the work of
Godard and Brecht, and have been labelled his avant-garde films.
Distinguished for the strong provocative current underlying
his work and the scandal surrounding his artistic choices and
bisexuality, Fassbinder’s intense professional discipline and
phenomenal creative energy were in contrast with the wild, self- destructive libertinism that earned him a reputation as the enfant
terrible of the New German Cinema.
It was 1973's Angst essen Seele Auf (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul) which first brought Fassbinder to international prominence, earning him the FIPRESCI and Jury prizes at that year's Cannes Film Festival. Representative of the second phase of his career, it was heavily influenced by the melodramas of Hollywood director Douglas Sirk, while his third phase, epitomised by Die Ehe der Maria Braun (The Marriage of Maria Braun, 1979), is considered Fassbinder's "international" period.
Fassbinder's films demonstrate his deep sensitivity to social misfits
and his hatred of institutionalised violence. He ruthlessly attacked
both German bourgeois society by detailing a desperate yearning
for love and freedom and the ways in which society, and the individual, thwarts this. A prodigiously inventive artist, Fassbinder distilled the best elements of his sources—Brechtian theatrics,
Artaud, the Hollywood melodramas, classical narrative—into a complex body of work. Fassbinder died at the age of 37 from heart failure resulting from a lethal interaction of drugs and sleeping pills. His death is often considered to mark the end of the New German Cinema movement.