Film Essay - Veronika Voss

Veronika Voss, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, is a tale of bad humor, but very effective addiction and exploitation. Fassbinder is considered by many as the most famous member of the film movement known as the "New German Cinema." This revolution in the cinema erupted in the 1960s as a reaction to the movies escapist fluff that West Germany had fallen in the wake of the Third Reich, and as a way of taking a stand against the political climate of the time, and against the in power. Veronika Voss was released in 1982, towards the end of the tragically short life of Fassbinder, when he himself was struggling with an addiction that soon killed him. Full of stunning black and white photographs, the film goes back to Hollywood films of the decade of 1950, and is the latest in a Fassbinder film trilogy about the alleged "economic miracle" that was West Germany after the war . Although the film is more accessible than some of his earlier works, Veronika Voss still contains many of the common themes throughout Fassbinder's career, and indeed, all the new German cinema in general. These issues include a distrust of authority, exploitation of the less fortunate, and abuse of power.

Film's main character, Veronica, played by Rosel Zech, is a movie star washing of the Third Reich, now unable to find work, and has become addicted to morphine. Rumors abound that she had an affair with Goebbels during the war, and like many of Fassbinder's earlier movie characters cavorted with the Nazis, who is being punished in the karmic sense. Isolated by her fame, she is desperately seeking "refuge and protection" of the world. She feels persecuted and helpless, having lost his anonymity. In one scene, she is essentially stalked by a couple of women in a jewelry store that in their relentless advance, looking for an autograph, in his attempt to retreat. The "protection" is for two people: Robert, played by Hilmar Thate, a sports journalist offered an umbrella to see her standing in the rain, and Dr. Katz, played by Ana Maria Duringer, her neurologist, who prescribed morphine itself that Veronika is addicted.

The Doctor is the root of corruption in history, as it not only provides the drug to Veronika, who exploits the situation by feeding the former star addiction and dependency use of coercion and blackmail her. So powerful is Dr. Katz grip forces "best friend" Veronika to sign over their money and property. The corruption runs even though, as Robert finds out later, the doctor has been doing a lot worse for her other patients. Once the victim runs out of money, which "accidentally" overdosed on sleeping pills, and "kindly" leave all their possessions to the doctor. Katz and his associates, in turn, live extravagantly at the expense of addicts they have created. His office is particularly striking for a medical center and decorated with expensive furniture. Through this corruption, Fassbinder strongly asserts that authority figures should be questioned and kept under control, or those in power exploit the weak and vulnerable.

Veronika Robert is taken immediately after their meeting, and believes it can help to overcome their problems. Who discovers the plot, but discovers that not only is unable to help, but ends up making things worse, and hurting those around him. He is ready at all times, especially because corruption is much deeper than first thought. Upon discovering Dr. Katz scheme, will be a narcotics administrator for help. Unfortunately, this manager is in the scam as well, and the conspirators are able to thwart Robert completely, and even go so far as to kill his girlfriend, Harriet, to hide the truth. The police, another figure of authority, are completely useless, and I think that nothing says Robert. So complete is the defeat of Robert losing two women in his life: his girlfriend, Veronica, who is a victim of "accidental" Dr. Katz overdose. Although this seems to imply that Fassbinder feels that the fight against corrupt authority is useless, quite the opposite. Fassbinder's claim that the public should not be naive, and must understand the level of corruption that can come, and the extent to which they must be vigilant in protecting their freedoms. Unfortunately, this message is lost in the sad and morbid tone of the film.

The 1970s was a turbulent time for the Federal Republic of Germany. With the widespread fears of terrorism and communism, the government took extraordinary powers, which many, including members of the New German Cinema movement, which is considered too extreme. Many believed that the government was corrupt and could not be trusted. This climate of fear and distrust of authority is clearly reflected in Veronika Voss.

Fassbinder also disagrees with the U.S. presence in West Germany in Veronika Voss. The uniqueness of America, a soldier, is a drug dealer in the league with Dr. Katz. In addition, American music always plays in the office of Dr. Katz, but in no other part of the film, providing clues from the beginning that something is not right. The implication is that U.S. involvement in western Germany is a large part of the corruption of power that is abundant and, moreover, that the Americans are exploiting the Germans for their own purposes and profits. As post-war years progressed, many in West Germany began to see the U.S. as an imperialist power, pulling the strings, and Fassbinder presents dramatically the feeling in this film.

Veronika Voss is actually a film of light and shadow. This is evident even from the opening credits, black as the words float across a white surface, casting shadows in its wake. Fassbinder use of black and white photography is clever and beautiful, and each scene is beautifully lit deliberately. The film is stylish, and the contrast between black and white is used to produce their effects, creating an appearance similar to that of a black film classic. An excellent example of this is the flashbacks, as Veronica remembers better times in his life. They are dramatically lit, around characters with auras of light, and giving each scene an almost heavenly touch. Veronika memory of their time on the film set at the beginning of the movie is the best example of this. The difference is striking when contrasted with the memories today, as Fassbinder do at home. In the past, is warm and bright with lights and different shades, while at present completely dark room, with furniture covered. The office of Dr. Katz is another example of how Fassbinder uses light and darkness to tell her story. The office is completely white and bright, incredibly, however, unlike the flashback scenes, there are no shadows whatsoever. Even the furniture and appliances are white. This creates a cold feeling, as if someone is trying to hide the evil within, under a veneer of sterility.

The weak point of this film lies in the characterizations. While the performance is strong in general, none of the characters are likeable. Veronika is weak and helpless, totally dependent, and always looking for someone to protect her. This, combined with his self-pity, they won the sympathies of the audience. Robert is cold and emotionless, just gather a minor outbreak frustration that nobody believes him. He cheats on his girlfriend without thinking twice, and does not hesitate to endanger it. In many ways is like it as the exploitation of other authority figures who are fighting against. In turn, his girlfriend is submissive, which Robert de cheat without consequences, and basically do what he wants her. Veronika and Robert relationship is also very underdeveloped. There seems to be a great chemistry between the two, and, in fact, have little screen time together. It's hard to imagine what Robert sees convinces him to put his own life and the lives of others in danger.

Despite these weaknesses, it is easy to recommend this film to anyone interested in Fassbinder or New German Cinema. The film is well shot, with a masterful use of black and white lighting. The topics presented are strong and present a convincing portrait of the concerns of many West Germans at the time it was made, in particular the directors of the New German Cinema. In general, the film is well designed, with a solid mystery, a compelling story and strong thematic base.