Oct 17, 2013

The Stationmaster's Wife

While a number of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films deal with miserable male cuckolds, typically of the ball-less bourgeois variety that make Scarlet O'Hara seem like a sensitive sweetheart, none of the director’s other films focus on this male-castrating subject so fiercely and uncompromisingly as The Stationmaster's Wife (1977) aka Bolwieser, thereupon making it one of the tragic German auteur filmmaker’s most decidedly dispiriting and melodramatically disgusting works as the sort of celluloid equivalent of having a vasectomy. Based on the novel Bolwieser: the novel of a husband (1931) written by largely forgotten Bavarian socialist-anarchist writer Oskar Maria Graf, whose works were banned in 1934 (apparently, he was offended when his books were not burned during the Nazi book burnings, so he wrote an anti-nazi appeal in a commie newspaper to change that) and who left Europa for New York City in 1938, The Stationmaster's Wife is a sort of anti-völkisch noir-ish in the spirit of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary (1856), except all the more brutal and told from the perspective of the husband as opposed to the wife, set during the pre-Hitler 1920s and centering around a Bavarian petit-bourgeois railway stationmaster who has the supreme honor of marrying his town’s most conniving and conspiring whore, who destroys the protagonist’s life one extramarital affair at a time. Starring actor/production designer Kurt Raab (Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?, The American Soldier) in his last Fassbinder film before the actor left the filmmaker’s life on bad terms, The Stationmaster’s Wife is notable in that is was largely fueled by cocaine, or as the star admitted himself, “So I took the powder every day, and Fassbinder was always ready to divide this treasure with me. He even let me take charge of the pillbox, and I used its contents as freely as sugar. During the shooting, my concentration was total. I hear nothing and nothing could disturb me. Everything was crystal clear inside me and my thoughts were unimaginably profound, knowing as I did that I was creating a marvelous Bolwieser.” In a sense, Kurt Raab, who died prematurely of AIDS related causes at the age of 46 in 1988 as disturbingly depicted in the posthumously released documentary he co-directed Yearning for Sodom (1989) aka Sehnsucht nach Sodom, was Fassbinder’s equivalent to John Water superstar Divine in that he was an extremely effete man-muse who was willing to do virtually anything and everything for his auteur master. Committing familicide in Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? (1971), going from being a disgraced far-left poet to pretending to be gay German Conservative Revolutionary poet sage Stefan George in Satan’s Brew (1976) aka Satansbraten, and portraying a pederast serial killer who moonlights as a drag queen in the Fassbinder produced horror masterpiece The Tenderness of Wolves (1973) aka Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe directed by Ulli Lommel, Raab was certainly willing to take one for the Anti-Theater team and in no other performance was the actor depicted so degradingly and patently pathetically as in The Stationmaster’s Wife, a virtual metaphysical horror film for men that I had trouble viewing a second time due to its perturbingly pathetic portrayal of a perturbingly pathetic cuckolded man that would have probably made for the perfect masturbation aid for a weak degenerate like Sigmund Freud. 

 After marrying Hanni (Elisabeth Trissenaar)—the daughter of a local brewery owner and the most brazenly bitchy, conspiring slut of her Bavarian town—absurdly weak stationmaster Xaver Ferdinand Maria Bolwieser (Kurt Raab) becomes the king of the cuckolds in Southern Deutschland, ultimately becoming the sad laughing stock of his friends, family, and co-workers, who quite openly mock him to his face, even laughing collectively at his pussy passivity in the face of abject disgrace. On top of sleeping with other men right under his neurotic nose, whore Hanni has the gall to call her husband Xaver “chubby” as a nickname. Hanni is carrying on a rather conspicuous affair with a butcher named Franz Merkl (Bernhard Helfrich), who she gives her hubby Xaver’s money to in perverse payment for pounding her puss, but also to pretend she has some sort of business arrangement with her less than secret boyfriend. Like the typical self-centered psychopath, Hanni pretends to be the victim when her husband attempts to confront her about calling him “chubby” and her dubious relationship with butcher Merkl, crying, “how vile…how disgusting” after hubby Chubby questions her femme fatale-like ways. Naturally, considering everyone knows his wife is a cheating cunt and that he is a cowardly cuck who does nothing about it, Xaver’s semi-respected social status as a financially secure and important uniform-adorned stationmaster is compromised. Meanwhile, Merkl begins to blow off his malicious mistress Hanni due to local controversy surrounding their bad behavior, so she, being a pathologically lecherous lady of the hyper histrionic sort, goes looking for another man to swoon over her and inevitably finds herself in bed with a suave yet sleazy barber named Schafftaler (played lovingly and quasi-heterosexually by Udo Kier). After Schafftaler gives Hanni a Greta Garbo-inspired hairdo, the brazen bourgeois hussy finds herself immediately able to crawl back in the bed of Merkl, thus rebuffing the barber, who she just screwed minutes earlier, in the process. A self-righteous pervert who is irked by the fact that everyone in his town is gossiping about the fact that he is screwing the stationmaster’s wife, Merkl—with the equally self-deluded support of his whore Hanni—decides to sue members of the Bavarian town for slander, thus further driving Xaver into a position of disrespect, which he, being a cowardly cuckold with nil backbone nor balls, supports. In an idiotic attempt to spare his wanton wife Hanni’s dubious dignity and social prestige, Xaver lies in court and is ultimately later charged with perjury, for which he is rewarded with a four year prison sentence and the loss of his prestigious position as a stationmaster. 

 Before landing in prison, Xaver finally exerts his seemingly nonexistent testicular fortitude by quasi-raping her, stating whilst having bittersweet sex with his wench of a wife, “You’re…my…property. I can do what I like with you,” but his minute or two of sad sexual prowess and imaginary glory proves to be in vain as his beloved is back in bed with Schafftaler in no time. After vengeful and jealous two-faced Merkl reveals to Xaver that his wife is cheating on him with “slimy Schafftaler” in a pathetic attempt to get his mistress back, the buffoonish stationmaster, while drunk as an Irish-American NASCAR fan, decides to confront his wife, but he naturally caves in the next morning when his majorly manipulative ‘better half’ bullshits her way out of the situation. After Hanni symbolically leaves with Schafftaler on a train to Munich so she can screw the male hairstylist in relative secrecy, lovelorn Merkl decides to pay his ex-mistress back by telling on her husband Xaver for committing perjury during the slander trial. After receiving a warrant for his arrest on the suspicion of perjury, Xaver is sent to prison, but when he is granted temporary freedom until his actual trial date, he begs like a bitch to stay in prison, confessing to the prison guard, “But I’m…I’m guilty” and complaining, “I can’t show myself in public anymore. Where on earth shall I go?” like a true cuck champ. When Xaver gets out of prison, he learns that a most moronic underling employee of his, Mangst (Volker Spengler)—a Nazi brownshirt who tells inane jokes and used to laugh in his boss’ face—has taken over his job as the stationmaster. Considering Xaver was a civil servant and thus belonging to a profession which is a pillar of Teutonic society, he is not only found guilty, but given an inordinately long sentence for his petty crime. On top of the fact she has ruined his career and destroyed his life, Hanni asks Xaver for a divorce while he is carrying out his prison sentence, which he accepts gracefully as the divorce does not require him to appear in court in his pathetic prison garb. 

 Kurt Raab's sort of symbolic cinematic swansong as a Fassbinder superstar who was no less a cuckold to the filmmaker as his character Xaver is to his wife Hanni, The Stationmaster's Wife is a devilishly disheartening film on all accounts, as if the director created it in revenge against heterosexual males, demonstrating the lunatic lows some meek men will go to appease their psychopathic wives. The fact that the film was made while both the lead actor and director were incessantly snorting coke makes it seem all the more strange as it is certainly not a cinematic work that will give anyone a rush, but send the viewer into a depression like no other cinematic period piece before nor after it. Regarding his cocaine-addled performance, Raab would go on to state regarding how he felt while shooting versus how his performance looked on screen, “That nothing of these feelings was transferred to the screen, that my acting became stiff and my movements poor was something I would only learn later. Fassbinder just left me in my dreamworld, where I had become great,” though critics like Wilhelm Roth would contradict his sentiments, even if The Stationmaster's Wife is not exactly regarded as one of the director’s masterpieces. Originally released as a 2-part and 201 minute mini-series for West German television, The Stationmaster's Wife was later cut into a 112 minute movie, which was not released until 1983 due to copyright problems. Ultimately, the abridged version of The Stationmaster's Wife, which is the version I watched and the only version available to American viewers, received a certain amount of posthumous fame when it was fittingly released on the first anniversary of Fassbinder’s death. Personally, I have no interest in watching the original 201 cut of The Stationmaster’s Wife as the cut version was a grueling experience enough, but with the rise of cuckold porn and emasculated husbands brainwashed by feminism and wives brainwashed by Oprah in both Europe and America, the film, despite taking place in a forgotten time and being about unfashionable people, has only become all the more relevant since its release. A sort of aesthetically sinister take on F.W. Murnau’s German expressionist masterpiece The Last Laugh (1924) aka Der letzte Mann in its depiction of a man who derives his self-esteem and social prestige from his uniform and who degenerates to nothing after losing it, The Stationmaster's Wife is a rare work of German New Cinema that reminds viewers how social status and prestige in pre-WWII Germany was not measured by personal wealth, but by uniform and job title, hence why the German Conservative Revolutionary philosopher Oswald Spengler argued for ‘Prussian Socialism’ over National Socialism in his sole political tract Preußentum und Sozialismus (1919) aka Prussiandom and Socialism, arguing, “English society is founded on the distinction between rich and poor, Prussian society on the distinction between command and obedience...Democracy in England means the possibility for everyone to become rich, in Prussia the possibility of attaining to every existing rank.” Of course, Fassbinder was a Bavarian and his animosity for the sort of Prussianism Spengler spoke of is an innate ingredient of The Stationmaster's Wife; arguably the only film ever made that has the potential to drive cuckolds to suicide! 

-Ty E

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