Self-indulgence and Hans Epp


I was wakened from odd dreams by the revelation that there is something that I needed to learn from this film, which I failed to on first viewing. Fassbinder extends a certain special privilige to Hans Epp in this film, the main character. His alcoholism and belligerence are made sympathetic only because he's a character in a film; all of us would probably withdraw from having to deal with such a man in life. I've known angry alcoholics, and I guess it's a given that they usually feel that they deserve special treatment -- that their pain and suffering justify or excuse what they are doing to their family and friends... Politically the film SEEMS to be valuable, in that it shows that Hans' anger and self-pity are in part responses to a too-cold, too-cruel society -- Fassbinder is using him as a vehicle to point out social inadequacies, the politics of which I guess I agree with. Yet... I gather Fassbinder himself was willing to use others -- that he was a difficult man to know. The question is whether this sort of sympathy for the self-indulgent is actually a good thing or not -- if it isn't really extending the filmmaker and/or the viewer the license to regard themselves as special, as deserving special privileges, as potentially being granted the license to use others because their own suffering is so great... I guess I'm curious how this film interacts with the self-pity and self-indulgence of other viewers. Do they imagine themselves as Hans, and, in feeling sorry for him and regarding him as tragic, do they get some sort of perverse boost...?

Allan (http://alienatedinvancouver.blogspot.com)

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(...because I do).

A.

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Your insistence that this film has something to do with self pity tells me more about you then the film. Fassbinder's view of this particular family has a much broader focus than the one you perceive. We follow Hans Epp not because he's an alcoholic and belligerent. The film shows us over and over again why he's the way he is: as the sister says, Hans has not been treated very well most of his life. In the very first scene we see his Mother's almost off handed cruelty; it goes on from there. Nothing works out for this man. Yes, he is a victim of misguided self indulgence. But, again, the film goes to great lengths to illustrate the origin of this man's need. You don't understand this character of this film.

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Hans Epp is like many of Fassbinder's central characters. He's person who had a rough early life and has grown selfish and desperate for love and acceptance from his social surroundings. What makes Hans and the film work is how we are aware of and understand his self-pity and selfishness and never forget that his downfall is by his own hand. It's a theme in the films of Fassbinder that's meaningful from being proven traits in human behavior, and forward-thinking individuals will have the capacity to feel empathy for these ugly traits because of how piercingly human it truly is by being inside all of us.

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