“Zurich, 1938, seven years before the end of the Second World War, begins, in a quiet and prosperous Switzerland, the story of a song that conquered the world“. Thus begins Lili Marleen of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, broadcast tonight on Arte. A strange starting point, this drama presents itself as the biopic of a song and not that of its performer. Yet it is indeed a story inspired by the real Lale Andersen that the spectator attends. In this Switzerland of 1938, the German Willie is in love with Robert, a Jewish musician, who works with his father to help refugees from Germany. Following a move by Robert’s father, who doesn’t like him, Willie finds himself stranded in Germany. She then began a career as a local cabaret singer, driven by the enormous success of “Lili Marleen“, an old tube of hers that has fallen into oblivion and that she has re-recorded. Everyone starts to call her herself Lili Marleen.
Throughout his career, Fassbinder was inhabited by a real fury to create. Plays, series, TV movies and films followed one another without downtime under his direction. In less than twenty years, between 1966 and 1982, he produced more than 40 programs. In Lili Marleen, the filmmaker is at the height of his aesthetic art. Benefiting for once from a comfortable budget, he gives life to his universe with hyper-worked light, sudden appearances of colors, multiple reflections or images in the image… Even if the film suffers from some lengths, it is beautiful end to end.
Hanna Schygulla at the top
Almost in all the shots of the film, Hanna Schygulla plays a fascinating Willie, obsessed, in love and fragile at the same time. This is the last time that the German actress who has lived in France for a long time will shoot for Fassbinder. Started from Love is colder than deaththe first feature film by Fassbinderthe relationship established between the filmmaker and his muse is undoubtedly one of the finest artistic collaborations in cinema. Hanna Schygulla has always refused to return or explain the reasons for their estrangement. No doubt she is right. What matters is that they did it together. Because if she has played for many other directors, Hanna Schygulla has probably never been so moving as in Lili Marleen.
Lili Marleen is not the strongest, most essential film of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. But all his films deserve to be (re)discovered. And this one, moreover, is important from a historical point of view. Fassbinder always spit on Germany which had not clearly drawn a line under its Nazi past. And it delivers with Lili Marleen a strangely ambiguous film. Let’s be clear, not a second is to the glory of Nazism! But for Fassbinder, what matters more than anything is the journey of his heroine and her love story. Everything else is like an obstacle standing in his way. Playing like this with the good morality of his time, which expected him to condemn without nuance, that is very Fassbinderian!
The film is available on arte.tv.