Whity seriously kick-started Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s career, but before the German bad boy left for Spain to shoot the film in early 1970, he directed the quickie Pioneers in Ingolstadt for German television. Though not exactly insignificant, the film is still a minor work for a director best known for thought-provoking observations of social exclusion like Fox and His Friends and tear-jerkers like Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. Pioneers in Ingolstadt was one of only a handful of productions whose source material wasn’t written by Fassbinder himself, though it bears mentioning that Marieluise Fleisser (whose 1929 play the director adapts here for the screen) was a favorite of Bertolt Brecht’s. The film catalogs the sexual exploits of army recruits sent to the film’s titular town in order to build a bridge. The film is difficult to place on an actual timeline, though it appears as if its soldiers are members of the Nazi party. Fassbinder doesn’t do much with this small and ultimately insignificant detail, though he seems to recognize a certain irony in having a black man as a member of the film’s pioneer ranks. Fassbinder regulars Irm Hermann and Hanna Schygulla star as two housemaids-cum-whores whose lives are shattered when the men love them and subsequently leave them. It’s in the hopes and emotional disappointments of the film’s women that Fassbinder evokes not a war between nations but an equally destructive battle between the sexes. Appropriately, these little wars between the film’s men and women are sometimes unfounded and end in bitter regret, but a careless Fassbinder only seems half-interested in the emotional devastations he charts. This is not the quintessential aesthetic detachment vital to other Fassbinder masterworks (and crucial to the theater of Brecht and the cinema of Douglas Sirk). Fassbinder is clearly bored…and it shows.
- 88 min
- Rainer Werner Fassbinder
- Rainer Werner Fassbinder
- Hanna Schygulla, Harry Baer, Irm Hermann, Rudolph Waldemar Brem, Walter Sedlmayr, Klaus Löwitsch, Carla Egerer, Günther Kaufmann, Elga Sorbas, Günther Krää, Burghard Schlicht
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: