20 September 2017



I loved this film by iconic German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, but some of the attitudes displayed towards women in it made me want to spit with fury, and I swear to God that I'm not even a feminist. It stars Barbara Sukowa as the titular Lola, a gorgeous nightclub singer and prostitute in post-war Germany whose life is endlessly complicated by men.

The film is the third in Fassbinder's BRD trilogy, after THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN and VERONIKA ROSS. The trilogy is Fassbinder's attempt to present the viewer with a cohesive picture of the post-war West Germany. BRD stands for Bundesrepublik Deutschland, the official name of West Germany and of the united contemporary Germany, by the way. Just so ye know...!

Lola is beautiful and street-smart and glamorous, but she's as much a possession of the brothel owner and town bigwig Shuckert's as his wallet or his car. He's the father of her daughter, a sweet little girl who lives with Lola's mother and in whom neither parent takes much interest, regrettably.

Shuckert's a married man whose wife is fully aware of his shocking infidelities, but maybe she likes the wealth and position that automatically accrue to a wife in her privileged position. They live well, so why would she want to go upsetting any applecarts?

It must be hard for Mrs. Shuckert not to be jealous of Lola though, a stunning, sexy sultry Marlene Dietrich-lookalike, which is interesting because this film is a loose re-working of an old Dietrich movie from 1930, THE BLUE ANGEL, and its source novel PROFESSOR UNRAT by Heinrich Mann.

Shuckert's up to his neck in the corruption that eats away at the little post-war German town of Coburg. It's 1957 and reconstruction of the ravaged German landscape is the name of the game. All of the fatcats, of whom the cigar-smoking, brandy-quaffing Shuckert is the fattest of them all, scratch each others' backs and fit snugly into each others' pockets. Sounds a bit like Irish politics today, when you put it like that. Our cats are surely the fattest in all of Europe...!

Imagine their shock, then, when a new building inspector, honest, morally upright, virtually incorruptible and energetic, sets up shop in the town. A new broom sweeps clean, as they say, and this new broom in the form of Herr Van Bohm is of a mind to sweep very clean indeed.

Especially after he falls in love with Lola, the daughter of his housekeeper, only to discover shortly afterwards her true persona as the town whore and the pet prostitute of the odious Shuckert. Van Bohm wants revenge on all the Shuckerts of the town, but he has one not-so-tiny problem that's standing in the way of his doing the job properly. He's still hopelessly in love with Lola...

The way Lola is treated like a thing in the film, an object, a piece of meat, a possession that can be sold to the highest bidder, is depressing almost beyond words. I understand the film's ending but I despair of it also.

What kind of message is it imparting to any young impressionable viewers? That this is how the world works and you'd damn well better get used to it and work within its sickly perameters? Meh. Whatevs, haha. It's not up to me to regulate the temperature of the moral climate around here. I just calls it like I sees it, that's all.

Barbara Sukowa is an infinitely watchable actress. I saw her in Margarethe Von Trotta's superb film HANNAH ARENDT (2013) and absolutely loved her. She was only sixty-four in it and she's still quite a young woman, having been born only in 1950.

Hannah Arendt was a German-Jewish philosopher and great political theorist, who famously covered (for the New Yorker magazine) the Nazi Adolf Eichmann's trial for war crimes in the early 1960s, after he'd been captured living anonymously in South America, the sneaky sod.

Barbara Sukowa as Hannah Arendt spends the whole movie smoking one cigarette after
another and taking her glasses off and putting 'em back on again. That bit is pretty funny. She does more than that too, of course.

She's terrifically believable as Hannah Arendt, the woman whose views on 'the banality of evil,' that is, the notion that great evil could be carried out by innocuous little nobodies like Eichmann, earned her the censure of a generation. It was thought that she was defending Eichmann but she always refuted this claim hotly.

Anyway, Barbara Sukowa as Lola is just such a magnificent and bewitching creature, stalking through the film in stockings and suspenders like the Dietrich of old, turning mens' heads and doing what she needs to do to survive and get by.

Lola wants to do more than merely survive, however. She wants the finer things in life and, if men can help her to get them, then what does it matter if she uses them and they use and abuse her scurrilously in return? No-one's getting hurt, after all. Are they...?

LOLA is available now on DVD, Blu-Ray and EST courtesy of STUDIOCANAL and VINTAGE WORLD CINEMA. It includes an interview with Barbara Sukowa and an interview with Juliane Lorenz, Editor and Head of the Fassbinder Foundation.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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