Berlin Alexanderplatz (television)

Berlin Alexanderplatz (television)

Infobox Film
name = Berlin Alexanderplatz

image_size =
caption = Theatrical poster for
"Berlin Alexanderplatz: Remastered" (2007).
director = nowrap|Rainer Werner Fassbinder
producer = Peter Märthesheimer
Günter Rohrbach
Gunther Witte
writer = Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Alfred Döblin (novel)
narrator = Rainer Werner Fassbinder
starring = Günter Lamprecht
Hanna Schygulla
Barbara Sukowa
Elisabeth Trissenaar
Gottfried John
music = Peer Raben
cinematography = Xaver Schwarzenberger
editing = Juliane Lorenz
distributor = TeleCulture
released = October 12, 1980
(West Germany)
August 10, 1983 (US)
runtime = 894 min (West Germany)
931 min (US)
country = Italy / West Germany
language = German
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
website =
amg_id = 1:4866
imdb_id = 0080196

"Berlin Alexanderplatz", originally broadcast in 1980, is a 14-part television series adapted and directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder from the Alfred Döblin novel of the same name, and stars Günter Lamprecht, Hanna Schygulla, Barbara Sukowa, Elisabeth Trissenaar and Gottfried John. The complete series is 15½ hours long.


Production of the series took nearly a year. In 1983, it was released theatrically in the United States, where a theatre would show two or three episodes per night. It garnered a cult following. Subsequently, it was released on VHS and broadcast on PBS and then Bravo.

Director Fassbinder dreamed of making a "parallel" film specifically for theatrical distribution after the completion of this film. The cast list he made included Gérard Depardieu as Franz Biberkopf and Isabelle Adjani as Mieze.


Plot Synopsis

1: The Punishment Begins

In 1928 Berlin, Franz Biberkopf is released after serving four years in Tegel prison for killing his girlfriend Ida. After settling into his old apartment he visits Minna, Ida’s sister. Minna succumbs to his forceful advances. In a flashback we see Franz kill Ida with a cream whip after suspecting she was going to leave him. Franz later runs into his old friend Meck and has a drink with him in Max’s bar, a local place. There he meets a young Polish woman named Lina who moves in with him.

2: How is One to Live if One Doesn’t Want to Die?

Franz employs himself by hocking tie holders on the street but has trouble making enough money. He is talked into selling the fascist newspaper Völkischer Beobachter and wearing a swastika armband. At Max’s bar, Franz is confronted by an old acquaintance named Dreske. Dreske and his friends sing “The Internationale” to provoke Franz. They nearly come to blows before Franz collapses in a fit.

3: A Hammer Blow to the Head Can Injure the Soul

Lina is troubled by the shady nature of the jobs Franz is getting and has him meet a family friend, Otto Lüders, who has Franz join him selling shoelaces door-to-door. In one apartment, Franz encounters a woman whose deceased husband he closely resembles. He has sex with the widow and later tells Otto. Otto goes to the widow’s flat and attempts to seduce her, but she rejects him. Otto extorts money and steals from her in response. When Franz goes back to the widow, happily expecting another tryst, she angrily rejects him. Distraught, Franz runs away to live at a boarding-house while Meck and Lina search for him.

4: A Handful of People in the Depths of Silence

Franz goes on an alcohol binge as a former medical orderly looks over him. He runs into Meck on the street one day. Meck had been living with Lina until she left him.

5: A Reaper with the Power of Our Lord

Franz becomes re-acquainted with Eva, for whom he used to be a pimp and who feels a deep affection for him. At Max’s, Meck introduces Franz to Pums, the ringleader of an illegal enterprise. He also meets Reinhold, one of Pums’s men. Reinhold is tired of his woman, Fränze, and wants Franz to take her off his hands. Franz has her come over and makes love with her. She returns to him after she can’t find Reinhold. Reinhold then employs the same plan with his current woman, Cilly, whom Franz accommodates after getting rid of Fränze.

6: Love Has Its Price

Reinhold is desperate to get rid of his current woman, Trude, but Franz won’t take her and wants to stick with Cilly. Franz gets sucked into Pums’s gang when he is drafted for a job as a last-minute replacement for Bruno, who gets beaten in the street. Franz ends up as a lookout as Pums, Reinhold, and Meck pull a robbery. In the getaway truck, Reinhold becomes suspicious of Franz because of a car that seems to be following them. Reinhold throws Franz out of the back of the truck.

7: Remember—An Oath can be Amputated

Franz has survived the car accident, but his left arm has been amputated. He recuperates for a time with Eva and Eva’s lover Herbert. Herbert agitates against Pums’s syndicate, so the boss decides to take up a collection to help with Franz’s medical costs. Franz goes to a red light street and encounters a pimp who offers him a woman he calls the whore of Babylon.

8: The Sun Warms the Skin, but Burns it Sometimes Too

Franz gets involved in an illegal enterprise with Willy, whom he met at a cabaret. Eva and Herbert drop by to see Franz and bring a young woman they offer as a new lover. Franz and the tender-hearted woman, whom he names Mieze, fall for each other. However, their spell of love is broken when Franz finds a love letter from another man.

9: About the Eternities Between the Many and the Few

Eva explain to Franz that Mieze just wants to work to support him as Franz cannot do so due to his missing arm. He reconciles with Mieze. Franz goes to Reinhold’s and tells him how he has become a pimp. Reinhold is disgusted by Franz’s stump of an arm. Franz is inspired by a Communist rally and spouts his newly learned rhetoric to Eva and Herbert, which upsets Eva.

10. Loneliness Tears Cracks of Madness Even in Walls

As Mieze cannot have children, Eva tells her she will have a child with Franz that Mieze can then raise. Mieze is delighted. Eva also tells Mieze she’s concerned that Franz is concerting with Willy and Communists. Mieze gets him to agree to stay out of politics. After Mieze describes the agreement made with Eva for Franz’s baby, Franz is horrified as he thinks Mieze wants to be rid of him. Mieze pleads that she loves him. The two get drunk and are happy until Mieze’s rich client arrives. Franz only finds out then that she is going away with him for three days and weeps in despair.

11. Knowledge is Power and the Early Bird Catches the Worm

Franz goes to Reinhold and tells him he wants to get involved with Pums again. Reinhold still has his suspicions but Franz is allowed to assist the gang with a job. Mieze is upset that Franz is earning money because she thinks Franz wants to be independent of her, but Franz reassures her. Franz brags to Reinhold about Mieze’s devotion and decides to show him what a fine woman she is. In the apartment, Franz has Reinhold hide in the bed when Mieze arrives. She reveals she is in love with another man. Franz is angered and beats her cruelly, but Reinhold saves her and throws Franz out. Mieze goes out to Franz and the two reconcile, though she has been bloodied by him. Franz and Mieze take a trip outside Berlin, where he explains to her he simply wanted Reinhold to see a true woman. 12. The Serpent in the Soul of the Serpent

Franz introduces Mieze to Meck. Reinhold blackmails Meck to set up a meeting for him with Mieze. Meck takes Mieze on a drive to Freienwalde and delivers her to Reinhold. Reinhold takes her for a walk in the woods, where she resists his advances. Mieze wants to know more about Franz, and Reinhold reveals it is because of him that Franz lost his arm. Mieze is horrified at this revelation. Reinhold strangles her and leaves her in the woods. 13. The Outside and the Inside and the Secret of Fear of the Secret

Franz tells Eva that Mieze has left him. Eva reassures him, though she is a bit concerned herself. A robbery pulled off by Pums’s gang goes wrong and Meck burns himself with a welding torch. Franz takes Meck to his apartment to bandage his wound. Meck tells Franz that Reinhold is a bad guy, but Franz claims he has a good heart. Meck takes the police out into the woods and helps them find Mieze’s strangled body, telling them he helped to bury her. Eva brings Franz a newspaper that relates Mieze’s murder. Franz lapses into demented laughter, claiming he is pleased that at least Mieze did not leave him as he had thought. 14. My Dream of the Dream of Franz Biberkopf by Alfred Döblin, An Epilogue

In a fantasy sequence, Franz walks along a street of the dead with two angels. He finds Mieze, but she disappears from his arms. Reinhold is in prison for the crimes committed by a man whose identity he has acquired. He is anguished that his cellmate and lover is being released. Franz is taken to an asylum. Much of the rest of the episode takes place in his imagination. Franz’s being run over by the car is re-enacted with different characters taking on the roles of victim and driver. In a striking sequence, Franz and Mieze are treated like animals being slaughtered in an abattoir. On a nativity set Franz is raised on a cross as the other characters watch. An atom bomb goes off in the background and the angels clear the dead. The surreal imagery ceases suddenly and Franz is at Reinhold’s trial testifying to his good character. Reinhold is given ten years for manslaughter. Eva tells Franz she has lost the baby. The film concludes with Franz as an assistant gatekeeper at a factory. He is alert to his job but not to what is going on in the world as war is on the horizon.


* Günter Lamprecht as Franz Biberkopf
* Barbara Sukowa as Emilie "Mieze" Karsunke
* Gottfried John as Reinhold Hoffmann
* Hanna Schygulla as Eva
* Elisabeth Trissenaar as Lina
* Karin Baal as Minna
* Franz Buchrieser as Meck
* Roger Fritz as Herbert
* Brigitte Mira as Frau Bast
* Barbara Valentin as Ida
* Ivan Desny as Pums
* Annemarie Düringer as Cilly
* Volker Spengler as Bruno
* Günther Kaufmann as Theo
* Vitus Zeplichal as Rudi
* Claus Holm as Wirt
* Hans Michael Rehberg as Kommissar
* Lilo Pempeit as Frau Pums
* Elma Karlowa as Frau Greiner


In 2005, the German Cultural Institute, having completed the reconstruction and restoration of Sergei Eisenstein's "The Battleship Potemkin", decided to restore "Berlin Alexanderplatz", saying that the original film negative was in "catastrophic physical condition" and that it "must be restored."

Beginning in 2006, the series underwent restoration and remastering. "Berlin Alexanderplatz: Remastered" received its world premiere on February 9, 2007 at the Berlin International Film Festival for which episodes 1 and 2 were shown. The restoration was completed in early 2007, exactly 25 years after Fassbinder's death. The entire series ran on February 11 in five installments. [cite web | title = Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz Remastered | publisher = Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation | date = 2007-01-31 | url = | accessdate = 2007-03-23 ]

The re-release was accompanied by a book that includes the original screenplay for "Berlin Alexanderplatz", original drawings, selections from Döblin's novel, as well as selected reviews of the film.

A DVD set containing additional material was released in Germany on February 10, [cite web | last = Berger | first = Sebastian | title = Berlin Alexanderplatz – Remastered exklusiv in der SZ-Cinemathek | publisher = Süddeutscher Verlag | date = 2007-01-16 | url = | language = German | accessdate = 2007-03-23 ] and was released in America through The Criterion Collection in November 2007.

"Time" magazine's Richard Corliss named it one of the Top 10 DVDs of 2007, ranking it at #9. [ [,30583,1686204_1686244_1692083,00.html Corliss, Richard; Top 10 DVDs;] ]


The film has made an impact on several well-known artists and critics. Susan Sontag wrote an appreciation in a September 1983 issue of "Vanity Fair". Also in the 1980s: Performance artist/musician Laurie Anderson wrote a song called "White Lily" ("What Fassbinder film is it? The one-armed man comes into the flower shop...") on the album of her concert film, "Home of the Brave". Director John Waters, writing on fellow cult director Russ Meyer, opined that Meyer's projected autobiographical magnum opus should be titled "Berlin Alexandertitz". And actress/performance artist Ann Magnuson recounts being "really bummed out" by the film while watching it on PBS during a bad drug trip in her lyrics to "Folk Song" from the Bongwater album, "The Power of Pussy". In the 1990s, film director Todd Haynes appropriated imagery from the film's notorious, phantasmagorical epilogue for a sequence in his "Velvet Goldmine". The film has also been mentioned in the cult series "The Critic".


External links

* [ "Berlin Alexanderplatz"] at the Fassbinder Foundation
* [ "Berlin Alexanderplatz: Remastered"] at the Fassbinder Foundation
* [ "Berlin Alexanderplatz: Remastered"] at Bavaria Film International
* [ "Berlin Alexanderplatz"] at The Criterion Collection

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