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DVD Review

DVD cover

Lola (1981)
(2017 4K Restoration)


Starring: Barbara Sukowa, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Mario Adorf
Distributor: StudioCanal


Certificate: 15
Release Date: 03 July 2017

Moving to the provincial city town of Coberg, Von Bohm takes up his post as the town's new building commissioner. A man of intellect and high morals, Von Bohm is disgusted to find the ruling elite are awarding building permits to a close group of friends and that corruption exists in all strata of the society. He means to challenge the status quo, but meanwhile he meets and falls in love with Lola, unaware that she is a singer and worker in the local brothel and the property of Schuckert, the very man he is trying to destroy…

Lola (1981. 1 hr 50 min 07 sec) is another in a string of films directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder which depict the transformation of post-war Germany, the trilogy also included The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) and Veronika Voss (1982). Fassbinder died relatively young, but in the fifteen years that he was actively making films he succeeded in creating forty of them, often making four to five films a year. He was able to do this, partially because he often used the same crew and actors and partially due to the fact that there were no rehearsals. He was also prolific in theatre and on television and created the science fiction series, World on a Wire (1973).

In a film like Lola the performance that you see is the only one that was shot. In some ways these limitations reflect those of the short lived post-war neo realism movement, the truth is that Fassbinder rejected the basic premise that cinema holds a form of basic truth, rather its form is such that it represents a collection of elements which can be shown. Any deeper reality is in the audience’s imagination and Fassbinder was very much more influence by the French new wave cinema, especially the work of François Truffaut on auteur theory.

So, on one level we have a sort of morality tale, the high-minded Bohm falling for the lowest in the town and having his perceptions regarding right and wrong challenged. The ending of the film may come as a shock to then audience as immorality wins the day. The film is a reinterpretation of The Blue Angel (1930), but not in the strict sense a remake, the shape and feel of the two stories are similar, but Lola is very much rooted in the economic boom that followed the Second World War and the German feeling of being a country under occupation. The film even has a random GI. We are never told his rank or what he is doing in the town, but the feeling of the American's being there was so pervasive that they had become part of the background colour.

The acting is good, considering that they only got one take to get it right. Outside of Germany audiences will recognise Armin Mueller-Stahl (Von Bohm) for his later work in television and film, most recently playing Cardinal Strauss in Angels & Demons (2009). Barbara Sukowa gives a nuanced portrayal of the tart with a heart. She also found fame outside of Germany and currently is playing Katarina Jones on the 12 Monkeys show.

The film has been completely restored and the quality is very clear, it comes with burned in English subtitles. The DVD comes with a couple of extras, an interview with Barbara Sukowa (10 min, 07 sec) where she speaks about the film and Fassbinder, as does Juliane Lorenz (9 min, 32 sec) editor and head of Fassbinder foundation. The disc also contains the original trailer (3 min, 32 sec).


Charles Packer

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