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  • Erwin and Elvira, the butcher


    Jörg Markowitsch

    Fassbinder's outstanding melodrama "In a Year of 13 Moons" (1978) is a consistently topical contribution to today's identity politics debate and a forceful exclamation mark for anti-stereotypical professions.

    In my youth at the cinema, Rainer Werner Fass­bin­der was a must-see. You had to like his films, otherwise you “didn’t under­stand anything about film”. I found them good, but also exhaus­ting. His first films, “Love is Colder Than Death” or “Kat­zel­ma­cher” (both 1969) were far too contrived for me. In his final film, “Querelle” (1982), I was even more disap­poin­ted by the thea­tri­cal staging. After all, Jean Genet was one of my heroes at the time. ” World on a Wire” (1973) and “Berlin Alex­an­der­platz” (1980) I will never be able to un-ana­chro­nisti­cal­ly appre­cia­te the visionary and the genius of these early mini-series.

    “In a Year of 13 Moons” (1978), however, it left me, in my mid-twenties, com­ple­te­ly paralysed in the cinema, the former Star Kino in Vienna. The film takes on social tensions in a radical way that are still relevant today: Gender identity and discri­mi­na­ti­on, Catho­li­cism and suicide, bour­geoi­sie and working class, upper and under­worlds, regulated and unre­gu­la­ted everyday life, respec­ta­ble and less respec­ta­ble pro­fes­si­ons, and of course love and violence.

    “In a Year of 13 Moons” shows the last days in the life of Elvira or Erwin Weishaupt (my applause still goes to Volker Spengler). The main theme becomes clear already from the opening credits: Elvira is lonely, she is seeking out a ‘John’ in the alleyways of Frankfurt and is beaten up by one and a group of like-minded indi­vi­du­als upon dis­co­vering her gender. Dragging herself home (pun unin­ten­ded), the humi­lia­ti­on, degra­dati­on and beatings continue relent­less­ly, this time on the part of her partner, who was in the process of packing his bags.

    She is finally helped and comforted by Zora (Ingrid Caven), a sex-worker, to whom she tells her life story while receiving first aid: “I was a butcher… that’s what I learned… that’s my pro­fes­si­on”. Despite a recent attempt at re-employ­ment in the same pro­fes­si­on, where she was met only with contempt, Elvira enthu­si­asti­cal­ly extols her former occup­a­ti­on. “Come I’ll show you!” she suggests, cut to Elvira and Zora entering a slaugh­ter­house. How this scene unfolds, the interplay of images, dialogue and music, still ranks high on my list of top film scenes, far above of the one of waking up with a horse’s head in bed. Richard Linklater, also a declared fan of the film, expli­ci­tly warns viewers about this scene (see interview).

    Precise, almost docu­men­ta­ry-like slaugh­ter­house images are accom­pa­nied by music and Elvira’s monologue. While blood gushes from the cows twitching in their death throes, Elvira’s off-screen voice provides a strange mix, once scree­ching and reciting Goethe’s Torquato Tasso, then calmly telling her story. It goes something like this: Given away by her mother, raised by nuns in an orphanage, would have liked to have learned golds­mit­hing, couldn’t find an appren­ti­ce­ship, being a butcher was easier, married the butcher’s daughter, a child, an operation in Casa­blan­ca for love of a man who wants nothing to do with love, pro­sti­tu­ti­on, alcohol, and depression.

    The scene is a twofold indict­ment. On the one hand, there is this hypocrisy, the social dis­so­nan­ce of eating meat and the repres­si­on of animal slaughter. On the other, the shocking reckoning with the pro­fes­sio­nal ste­reo­ty­pe of the crude and brutal butcher. It chal­len­ges the fragility of our cer­tain­ties. We don’t want to believe that this lonely, vul­nerable and poetic trans­se­xu­al was and wants to be again a butcher. And yet it is so.

    On Tik Tok there is a channel on which — primarily young people — first pose in their private and leisure lives in order to show them­sel­ves on this in their pro­fes­si­on or pro­fes­sio­nal clothing. I like to imagine Elvira taking part in this and wonder what setting she would have chosen for it.

     

    PS: After 1978, the year 1992 was one with this par­ti­cu­lar Fass­bin­der lunar con­stel­la­ti­on. 2027 will be another one.

    In A Year of 13 Moons, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1978, Trailer / German 

    Richard Linklater on In A Year of 13 Moons by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 2016 

    In A Year of 13 Moons, 1978, Filmstill

    In A Year of 13 Moons, 1978, Filmstill

    In A Year of 13 Moons, 1978, Filmstill

    In A Year of 13 Moons, 1978, Filmstill

    In A Year of 13 Moons, 1978, Filmstill

    In A Year of 13 Moons, 1978, Filmstill

    Tags

    Erwin and Elvira, the butcher

    Jörg Markowitsch

    Fassbinder's outstanding melodrama "In a Year of 13 Moons" (1978) is a consistently topical contribution to today's identity politics debate and a forceful exclamation mark for anti-stereotypical professions.

    In my youth at the cinema, Rainer Werner Fass­bin­der was a must-see. You had to like his films, otherwise you “didn’t under­stand anything about film”. I found them good, but also exhaus­ting. His first films, “Love is Colder Than Death” or “Kat­zel­ma­cher” (both 1969) were far too contrived for me. In his final film, “Querelle” (1982), I was even more disap­poin­ted by the thea­tri­cal staging. After all, Jean Genet was one of my heroes at the time. ” World on a Wire” (1973) and “Berlin Alex­an­der­platz” (1980) I will never be able to un-ana­chro­nisti­cal­ly appre­cia­te the visionary and the genius of these early mini-series.

    “In a Year of 13 Moons” (1978), however, it left me, in my mid-twenties, com­ple­te­ly paralysed in the cinema, the former Star Kino in Vienna. The film takes on social tensions in a radical way that are still relevant today: Gender identity and discri­mi­na­ti­on, Catho­li­cism and suicide, bour­geoi­sie and working class, upper and under­worlds, regulated and unre­gu­la­ted everyday life, respec­ta­ble and less respec­ta­ble pro­fes­si­ons, and of course love and violence.

    “In a Year of 13 Moons” shows the last days in the life of Elvira or Erwin Weishaupt (my applause still goes to Volker Spengler). The main theme becomes clear already from the opening credits: Elvira is lonely, she is seeking out a ‘John’ in the alleyways of Frankfurt and is beaten up by one and a group of like-minded indi­vi­du­als upon dis­co­vering her gender. Dragging herself home (pun unin­ten­ded), the humi­lia­ti­on, degra­dati­on and beatings continue relent­less­ly, this time on the part of her partner, who was in the process of packing his bags.

    She is finally helped and comforted by Zora (Ingrid Caven), a sex-worker, to whom she tells her life story while receiving first aid: “I was a butcher… that’s what I learned… that’s my pro­fes­si­on”. Despite a recent attempt at re-employ­ment in the same pro­fes­si­on, where she was met only with contempt, Elvira enthu­si­asti­cal­ly extols her former occup­a­ti­on. “Come I’ll show you!” she suggests, cut to Elvira and Zora entering a slaugh­ter­house. How this scene unfolds, the interplay of images, dialogue and music, still ranks high on my list of top film scenes, far above of the one of waking up with a horse’s head in bed. Richard Linklater, also a declared fan of the film, expli­ci­tly warns viewers about this scene (see interview).

    Precise, almost docu­men­ta­ry-like slaugh­ter­house images are accom­pa­nied by music and Elvira’s monologue. While blood gushes from the cows twitching in their death throes, Elvira’s off-screen voice provides a strange mix, once scree­ching and reciting Goethe’s Torquato Tasso, then calmly telling her story. It goes something like this: Given away by her mother, raised by nuns in an orphanage, would have liked to have learned golds­mit­hing, couldn’t find an appren­ti­ce­ship, being a butcher was easier, married the butcher’s daughter, a child, an operation in Casa­blan­ca for love of a man who wants nothing to do with love, pro­sti­tu­ti­on, alcohol, and depression.

    The scene is a twofold indict­ment. On the one hand, there is this hypocrisy, the social dis­so­nan­ce of eating meat and the repres­si­on of animal slaughter. On the other, the shocking reckoning with the pro­fes­sio­nal ste­reo­ty­pe of the crude and brutal butcher. It chal­len­ges the fragility of our cer­tain­ties. We don’t want to believe that this lonely, vul­nerable and poetic trans­se­xu­al was and wants to be again a butcher. And yet it is so.

    On Tik Tok there is a channel on which — primarily young people — first pose in their private and leisure lives in order to show them­sel­ves on this in their pro­fes­si­on or pro­fes­sio­nal clothing. I like to imagine Elvira taking part in this and wonder what setting she would have chosen for it.

     

    PS: After 1978, the year 1992 was one with this par­ti­cu­lar Fass­bin­der lunar con­stel­la­ti­on. 2027 will be another one.

    In A Year of 13 Moons, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1978, Trailer / German

    Richard Linklater on In A Year of 13 Moons by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 2016

    In A Year of 13 Moons, 1978, Filmstill

    In A Year of 13 Moons, 1978, Filmstill

    In A Year of 13 Moons, 1978, Filmstill

    In A Year of 13 Moons, 1978, Filmstill

    In A Year of 13 Moons, 1978, Filmstill

    In A Year of 13 Moons, 1978, Filmstill

    Tags


    The old fear of the end of new work itself

    The old fear of the end of new work itself

    We all look forward to the end of the working day, but not the end of work itself. The fear of automation and the end of work is an old topos, as evidenced by industrial films from the 1950s.

    Superpowers on the job

    Super­powers on the job

    What to do with superhuman abilities on the job? Superheroes don't give much information on this. A troll in one of the most extraordinary Swedish films of recent years (Border, 2018), on the other hand does.

    When pictures of economy went into motion

    When pictures of economy went into motion

    A new book introduces us to the important epistemologist Michael Polanyi as a didactician of economics and recalls his educational film "Unemployment and Money" (1940), which is still worth seeing today.

    Adolf Hennecke - Hero of the Battle of Production

    Adolf Hennecke — Hero of the Battle of Production

    Where labour and the heroic merge: the glorification of labour in real socialism.

    Finding and Cultivating the Self in Hair: On the Wizardry of Hairdressers

    Finding and Cul­ti­vat­ing the Self in Hair: On the Wizardry of Hairdressers

    The key to successfully creating a hairstyle is, of course, the hairdresser's skill. But the art of hair is not limited to instrumental skills, it also includes the 'culturality' of hair. A contemporary critique of a traditional profession.

    The baker's routine gestures: a professional ‘classic’?

    The baker’s routine gestures: a pro­fes­sio­nal ‘classic’?

    In contemporary cinema, we often don’t question seemingly cliché images of bakers at work as seen in Antoine Fontaine's "Gemma Bovery" (2014) or Luke Jin's short film "La Boulangerie" (2017), but perhaps we should.

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    About this blog

    By selecting a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. They are both based in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their cor­re­spon­ding articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.

    About this blog

    With picking a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. We both work in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their respec­ti­ve articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.