"Peter von Kant" – homage to unrequited love

© Hackesche Höfe Kino
© Hackesche Höfe Kino

The title of François Ozon's new film will sound familiar to many cineastes. Which isn’t surprising, since "Peter von Kant" is a new interpretation of a Fassbinder classic.

French people love Rainer Werner Fassbinder; a festival or a retrospective is frequently held in some cinema in France. French director François Ozon also has been dealing with his work again and again. Now the great director has presented his version of a Fassbinder classic.

Ozon became known in Germany through the films "8 Women" (2002) and "Swimming Pool" (2003). With "Peter von Kant" he now delivers a new interpretation of Fassbinder's "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant" from 1972. 

Opening film of the Berlinale

Ozon's film played at the opening of this year's Berlinale, and now it can be watched at the cinema in the Hackesche Höfe. The story borrows closely from Fassbinder: Successful film director Peter von Kant (Denis Ménochet) lives with his assistant Karl, whom he continually humiliates. Through the famous actress Sidonie (Isabelle Adjani), who had been his muse for many years, Peter meets Amir (Khalil Gharbia) and falls in love with the young man. He offers Amir to share the apartment with him and wants to help him make his breakthrough in the film business. The plan works out. But no sooner does Amir become famous than he breaks up with Peter. The abandoned man soon struggles with his own demons and realizes that there is no such thing as "beautiful love."

© Hackesche Höfe Kino
© Hackesche Höfe Kino

Enter Hanna Schygulla

Not only the story and title are reminiscent of Fassbinder's original. Ozone's film also picks up on Fassbinder in other details. For example, the new film is set in 1972 and predominantly in von Kant's apartment. Director Peter, played by Denis Ménochet, strongly resembles Rainer Werner Fassbinder of the 1970s in his appearance, his behavior and his alcohol and drug consumption. And finally, even Hanna Schygulla, who already had participated in the German original, makes an appearance: Then, she played the young lover who leaves Petra von Kant; in Ozon's film, she is Peter's mother. In France, Hanna Schygulla is considered a grand old lady of German cinema. 

"I always suspected that the story was a barely veiled self-portrait that revolved around one of Fassbinder's passionate loves," Ozon said. "In ‘The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,’ Fassbinder filmed his own unhappy affair with one of his favorite actors, Günther Kaufmann, turning it into a lesbian love story between a fashion designer and her model." Ozon wanted his film to be more optimistic than Fassbinder's version. "Although Peter ends up alone and isolated, his eyes are open to his films, his imagination, to fiction," Ozon says. 

© Hackesche Höfe Kino

Revival for Fassbinder?

The French director already made his directorial debut in 2000 with a Fassbinder adaptation: "Drops on Hot Stones" was based on the 1964 play of the same name by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. 

It's quite possible that Ozone's new film will also contribute to experiencing Fassbinder anew in Germany. For in this country, the director is rather unknown and many of his films are more or less forgotten. If you want to see and love Fassbinder, you have to go to France. Or to the cinema in the Hackesche Höfe.

Tickets and times are available here.

All photos: © Hackesche Höfe Kino