Germany, the 70’s. Naive young Franz moves in with Leopold, a much older successful businessman. Role-playing and manipulation take their toll on the couple, eventually resulting in the two men seeing only their differences. The situation takes on a new twist when the two men’s former girlfriends re-enter the picture.
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I had long wanted to make a film about a couple and the difficulties of living together. When I saw Fassbinder’s stage play, I realized I didn’t have to write a new film script: the play already existed, and it exactly fitted the story I had in mind. Fassbinder’s great strength is that in plunging the audience into the anecdotal details of one couple’s daily life, he gives us a view of every couple on earth. I had two models for making a screen version of a play: “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” (which is also a chamber piece shot in the studio, with no exteriors to give it air), and “Smoking/No Smoking,” in which Alain Resnais captures the essential theatricality of the text in the scenery, the acting style and the artificiality of the language. Citing Sternberg and Sirk, Fassbinder said that artificiality is the only way we can penetrate the truth of characters. I tried to follow that principle in my mise-en-scene and draw the audience into the logic of the film, so that they may follow the characters that much more closely.
François Ozon, Director