Die Bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant / The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant /
As Lágrimas Amargas de Petra von Kant
Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1972)
This is at first glance oblique but ultimately deeply penetrating study of the way relationships are constructed and the essential feature of them which according to Fassbinder is no other than power. Here power alternates in actual or oflen in purely symbolic terms between several women in a room, in what may be regarded as one of the most successful attempts to present a theatrical play onto the screen.
Petra Von Kant is a fashion designer and lives with her assistant. She soon though employs a new model and a lesbian relationship between them unfolds almost immediately. This relationship remains brief as Petra is abandoned by her "newly-acquired' lover...
Fassbinder provides here a transparent examination of the dynamics of dominance and submission aiming to transcend the strict limits of the homosexual nature of the relationship, and to reach a more general level. In this goal he is entirely successful. The way abuse of power inhibits true communication and the way it enhances estrangement is presented through various confrontations: husband and wife, employer and employee, mother and daughter. The result, as one would expect, is detrimental to both parties. Fassbinder throws in simultaneously, all sorts of issues which are not directly linked to the main theme but they somehow cohere perfectly with it. He juxtaposes kitsch with art, and he compensates for the coldness of his characters with some incredibly moving moments of personal confrontation.