Machoistic/Stardom And Queeness/Stardom-Complexes As Objects Of Fassbinder’s Psychotherapy Through Film-Directing

Radu Gabrea

Eva Mattes (Fassbinder) and Lisa Kreuzer (Gudrun)
Eva Mattes (Fassbinder) and Lisa Kreuzer (Gudrun)

Gudrun and Walter (Werner Stocker), exemplary couple not only inside Eva/Fassbinder’s film within Radu Gabrea’s film, but in their love inside “Man Like Eva”

Fassbinder (Eva Mattes) sexually caught between Gudrun and Walter, is trying to cool off his head

Fassbinder has decided to dive into a relationship with Walter, but is he motivated more by his pedagogical/psychotherapeutic tasks or is it rather his sexual obsession?

Fassbinder’s seduction of Walter is trickily ambiguous – sexual games are impregnated with political reasoning and psychotherapeutic intentions

Eva-Fassbinder is playing with Walter’s daughter while visiting Walter’s home and family. Viewers who have grown up on accented/embelished reprersentation of human everyday emotions in Hollywood or commercial films in general, will be “disappointed” with the “dry and rigid” emotional coloration of the scene referred to in this still. The task of the director (Gabrea) here is to point to the fact that Fassbinder can be playful and interested in such innocent games, not to entertain the viewers by the “colorful” representation of it.


Radu Gabrea’ film is so semantically eccentric and so extreme in its implications, that it needs, it seems, some socio-psychological introduction. Even in a country proud of its democratic legacy, like US, people live in an atmosphere where killing human beings is not only widespread but considered sad-but-c’est la vie-fact of life. The question here is not only an overwhelming quantity of guns in private ownership, the quantity of people victimized by violent crimes and the readiness of the cops to fatally shoot unarmed civilians, but the orientation of the decision-makers on using killing to solve global problems on international scene. If we look at the American and European TV serials choked by crime stories and Hollywood productions over-saturated with high-tech weapons of extermination and destruction (praised by primitive megalomania and righteousness), we’ll not be surprised that people are adapted to hot violence and take it not only as an inevitability but as a healthily rough-tough entertaining fun. But Fassbinder cannot see it as normal – he disagrees with this reedition of Third Reich mentality. He doesn’t want us to live in a universe where there is nothing more matter-of-factly than lethal violence towards other people, a violence not only factual but psychologically deeply rooted – felt as natural as bed pillow.

The violence in today’s American culture is as widespread as fight between schoolboys in the schoolyard or in domestic situation (in the families and in personal relationships). For many people violent scenes produced by jealousy are taken as proof of the “real love” – as a sign of its genuineness and intensity. “The Lady Of the Camelias” by Alexander Dumas was the literary basis for the film, which Fassbinder as a character in Radu Gabrea’s film, makes inside it. In “Man Like Eva” Eva is the nickname Gabrea gave to Fassbinder (using E.V.A. abbreviation as a semantic mediation).

Being semantically extreme, Gabrea’s film is stylistically surrealistic – the director emphasizes the frightening, even repulsive impression that Fassbinder’s life can have on the international breed of as innocent as hateful and obedient (conservative) philistines. According to Gabrea, Fassbinder is a creator and practitioner of what can be called psychosexual therapy directed at healing human megalomania (psychological trunk of violent reactions) – psychological queen-ness complex in women and bravado-machoism in men. In Gabrea’s film Eva-Fassbinder (Eva Mattes) is using the situation of making film not only to artistically register his criticism of conventional love and marriage and psychology behind it, but to “model” his critical intentions through psychotherapeutic working with the actors.

In Fassbinder’s method of working with the actors (and in his films addressing not only the human behavior but the deep layers of human nature), the difference between the characters and actors becomes much less obvious than it is usually the case. On a certain deep level of acting: of the psychological penetration of the actor into character’s identity and personality, this difference between the two becomes much more problematized. In the depth of their nature actors have a very similar psychological complexes as the characters they impersonates (if they go into their characters deeply enough). The commercial – psychologically easy acting is completely different from the acting when the actor is not putting himself/herself in the circumstances of the character (as Stanislavsky suggested he/she should), but instead – into the character’s psychological container as developed from childhood. This miraculous blending between actor and character is acted itself not only in front of the audience but in front of creation and it is necessary in order to communicate to the viewers the possibility or impossibility of psychological transformation of machoistic (in men) or princess/queen-like (in women) psychology to a really human one – free from megalomania and based on de-self-narcissization, humility and wisdom. Fassbinder’s films are not about curious circumstances playing with human destiny, but about deepest human complexes, which are similar in different people.

The place where Fassbinder shoots the film becomes a place where he applies his psychotherapeutic concept to the actors and, therefore, to the characters and the viewers themselves (the actors become not so much impersonators of the characters but more character than the character – not even character’s psychological skeleton, but its psychological heart).

Gabrea depicts the place, where the film based on the motifs of Duma’s novel is in a process of being made, stylistically negatively. He made it look almost like a cave, with low ceilings (in order to create this impression he puts the camera in a position of, as if, stretching horizontal view, as if, flattening and belittling the real height of the ceilings). He makes space look like a den isolated from the external world, like a hole in the human sociality, where, as if, bizarre and sinister rituals are taking place. By, as if, parodying the philistines’ existential taste in human intimacy (according to which everything unconventional and non-trivial is suspicious) and their phobic perception of Fassbinder’s ideas and life style, Gabrea creates the fundament to say the truth about Fassbinder‘s directorial project and cultural pedagogy not only objectively but through its negative perception on part of many people. It gives him the opportunity to create the clash between Fassbinder’s and the philistine’s worldviews and to try to use his own therapy with the viewers – to make them feel how Fassbinder’s aesthetically arranged psychotherapy perceived by regular people as bizarre and even revolting, grows inside their very rejection/refutation of his life as an exotic orchid in a wild forest. It is the “monstrous” process of the very possibility of psychologically alchemical transformation of a human being is hidden in this place where E.V.A. makes a film based on Duma’s novel. It is from curing our private relationships, that rejuvenation of human nature in social and international relations can take place, according to Fassbinder and Gabrea.

In Gabrea’s film we see Fassbinder’s radical challenge to psychological conservatism of human bonds. But what are the achievements of Fassbinder’s sexual therapy? Gudrun who is amorously and sexually involved with Eva-Fassbinder but indirectly encouraged by him “to fall in love” with her partner (actor playing the main character from Duma’s novel, who is mutually in love with Gudrun’s), cannot accept that Fassbinder suddenly intervened in her love relations with Walter – amorous energies of the actors and characters become mixed into an incredible – explosive cocktail.

Fassbinder was successful in blocking Walter’s megalomaniacal machoism by his homosexual seduction, but it is Gudrun who is not able to accept the resulting “pedagogical” triangle (she, Walter, Eva-Fassbinder). She forces herself not only to lose her acting partner (when she demonstratively tried to quit her role), but her beloved (Eva-Fassbinder) and her lover (Walter), when later she returned to continue with her role, but finished with both – her acting partner and her lover in one fatal action. Heterosexual bio-predatoriness at the bottom of the feminine psyche needs male machoism as vulva needs erection, as orgasm needs to meet orgasm.

Gudrun’s amorous/sexual organization is characterized by Gabrea following Dumas as even more conservative than famous (in its self-sacrificially challenging the world) stubbornness of male machoism. If the conservative (machoistic) male will fight a rival to death, transform him into the ultimate enemy and make his domination over him the goal of life, the conservative female will never forgive her beloved for trying to ontologically leave her.

Gudrun loved Fassbinder, but became obsessed with Walter. Eva-Fassbinder’s intense pantomime of homosexual seduction of Walter, where he makes him accept the anal intercourse (proposal which for Walter was like the sky falling into the ocean and eruption of the ocean into the sky), is a unique by the intensity of its psychological elaboration scene, never attempted in serious cinema before. This scene which is supposed to be seen as unimaginably nightmarish by many viewers, paradoxically establishes the moral contrast with the moral fallen-ness and madness of murder of Walter by an impeccable and beautiful woman Gudrun. Of course, the issue here is not what is more monstrous – homosexual love or heterosexual murder, but this sudden reversal of what is traditionally seen as monstrous and what is seen by Radu Gabrea as “toughly beautiful” is, it seems, a therapeutic psychodrama which the director Gabrea does with the audience. Gudrun’s passions show its criminal underside, while Fassbinder is remembered as innocently playing with Walter’s daughter – giving her ride around the rooms on his back, and as horrified when during shooting a scene he from behind the camera suddenly understood Gudrun’s intentions, jumped to save Walter, but it was already too late. Seemingly violent homosexual seduction is shown like a tough sexual foreplay, while impeccable romantic love carries the seeds of intolerance and murder.

Radu Gabrea makes us conscious that Fassbinder’s films are not the only art that he is able to share with the public. His personal dedication to the psychotherapy of machoistic (in men) and princess/queen (in women) complexes, which colors his style of directing the actors, is no less meaningful. That makes Gabrea’s film an addition not only to Fassbinder’s cinema, but to his scholarship, which promotes farther understanding of RWF’s position in life and his films.

Posted on Dec, 3, 2015 – “Man Like Eva/Ein mann wie Eva” (1983) by Radu Gabrea by Acting-Out Politics