Review: Händler Der Vier Jahreszeiten (The Merchant Of Four Seasons, 1971)

merchant

My first experience with yet another acclaimed German director!

Written By: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Directed By: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Right off the bat Händler Der Vier Jahreszeiten hits you over the head with its blunt, frank nature. There’s very little melodrama to be found in this movie. Even the moments that are a bit dramatic, such as when Hans strikes his wife or tries to bring her back home from his mother’s house, aren’t overly dramatic. They are given the dramatic import that those moments would have in real life, or that we imagine they would have in real life.

The frank nature of the scenes and characters in Händler Der Vier Jahreszeiten carries over into the overall feel of the film. Händler Der Vier Jahreszeiten has a very natural, minimalist feel. Outside of a few zoom-ins, perhaps one too many, the camera provides no flair to the story. The camera exists to chronicle the hate and depression we see on screen, the entrapment that the banality of everyday life can bring upon us all. Rainer Werner Fassbinder doesn’t want the camera to provide dramatics, he wants it to provide a steady look at the brutal truth of the world we live in.

Händler Der Vier Jahreszeiten is a film about hate, about one man’s hate and the hate piled onto him by those around him. Hans hates himself so he hates everyone around him, he can’t be the problem everyone else must be the problem. After a beginning that focused on that idea Händler Der Vier Jahreszeiten evolves into a tale about the idea of living up to the expectation people hold for you. Hans can never do that, no matter what. He can’t meet his families expectations, or his wife’s or his mistresses. With his camera Fassbinder wants to show that some people are confined to their lot in life, they are trapped by the desire to be honest and the societal necessity of keeping up appearances. The theme and the story culminate in a man in so much pain that he would rather have his life be over than for the pain to continue. Händler Der Vier Jahreszeiten isn’t an indictment of Hans, it is an indictment of society as well as Hans. Hans brought many of his problems upon himself, but for everyone who places all the blame on the individual it is important to remember the role society plays in the life of any individual.

The acting in Händler Der Vier Jahreszeiten was for the most part acceptable, but nothing to write home about. However, some of the reaction shots, especially when zoomed in upon, seem off kilter in a bad way. I also had some issues with narrative flow. It’s a bit too jumbled for my liking, it would have benefited from some tightening up and less random time jumps that only serve to disorient the story for a bit.

While not the greatest of movies, Händler Der Vier Jahreszeiten is a really good movie that provoked plenty of thought. Being my first exposure to Fassbinder it was more than sufficient to pique my interest in seeing more of his work. It’s not a film for everyone, it’s more introspective and abstract than most are willing to accept. But, Händler Der Vier Jahreszeiten was a fascinating movie to take in and it’s the type of movie that leaves you thinking, whether you want to or not.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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