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Berlin Alexanderplatz: Limited Edition Boxset (Blu-Ray)
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(Jul 23, 2018)
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Franz Biberkopf is an unforgettable man: good-natured, soft, tender, but also hard, violent and brutal. Released from prison following a four-year sentence for the manslaughter of his girlfriend, he plans to make a new start and a decent life for himself. But a chaotic, decadent Berlin of the 20’s is not the easiest place for an ex-con to go straight and work is hard to come by. When Franz becomes fascinated by Reinhold, a psychotic small-time crook, he is soon drawn back into a world he cannot escape.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES:
- Limited edition deluxe box set (2000 copies only)
- 'Fassbinder: Love Without Demands’ - The acclaimed 2015 feature length documentary by Christian Braad Thomsen
- An appreciation by writer and critic Tony Rayns
- Berlin Alexanderplatz - A Visual Essay by Daniel Bird
- ‘A Mega Movie and it’s Story’ documentary by Juliane Lorenz
- 'The Restoration' documentary including ‘before and after’
- The Original Recaps
- Berlinale 2007 trailer
- 60 page perfect bound booklet featuring new essay by Cahiers Du Cinema’s Stephane du Mesnildot and archive material by Wim Wenders, Thomas Elsasser and Christian Braad Thomsen
The work of a genuine master --Time Out
A masterpiece --Slant Magazine
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Contentwise a five star, An excellent version of a multifaceted story, succeeds in becoming a perosnal view and coomentary to a compicated novel and time. Som amazing scenogafic/cinemagraphic solutions to key scenes within the novel,
First the facts: it comprises fourteen episodes, or rather thirteen episodes and an epilogue of Fassbinder's making. That epilogue, which lasts two hours, is surreal to the point of laughter due to its unceasing symbolic pretentiousness, though not without some visual and aural stimulation. Most episodes are an hour in length. Extras include (i) a forty-five minute `Making of', a behind-the-scenes documentary; (ii) an hour-long 2007 documentary `Berlin Alexanderplatz: A Mega-Movie & Its Story', in which many of the leading players - both actors and crew - provide comment; and (iii) a thirty-minute documentary on the film's restoration for the digital age. But despite this being a remastered copy, there are still some scenes that have a poor grained sheen from television in the 1980s.
The film has a very claustrophobic atmosphere. The majority of scenes are shot in interiors, and even where we set foot outside, one feels restricted and constrained by the narrow streets with their tall buildings and busy traffic. As well as the crowded streets, the U-Bahn has low ceilings and dark corners; meanwhile, drinking bars are shadowy. Even the rare journeys out into the countryside are dominated by shadowy forest scenes, where leaves are falling and are as brown as they are green. And over everything and everyone in every shot is a veil of sepia tone: rarely do we see a flash of scarlet or a spark of blue-yellow.
The story itself concerns one of life's losers, Franz Biberkopf. It's 1928. In the first episode - `The Punishment Begins' - he has been released from prison where he has served his term for the murder of his girlfriend. The punishment, then, commences after he has left prison. He seeks to live a new life, seeking to earn an honest living from being consecutively a street-trader, a seller of newspapers, and a pedlar of shoelaces, but he is constantly drawn back by both circumstances and inclination to his old haunts and former ways: "I don't want to go on as before", he exclaims. But Biberkopf goes through more women than he has jobs and is surrounded by old acquaintances and new losers. Biberkopf at least concedes to himself that, "My head's as stupid as it is empty".
It is difficult to comprehend any moral lessons to be drawn here; there is no final redemption. I had to wander what the viewer had to gain from watching the series: are we merely prurient witnesses to sordid lives? There is very little humour. Despite the good intentions of Biberkopf, his character is also marred by such instances as his laughing out loud at a newspaper report of a man who threw his three children into a canal to drown after his wife had already committed suicide. Bartender Max cannot understand Biberkopf's reaction, stressing he should be weeping not laughing. Biberkopf counters that instead he respects the husband and father and says he at least is now sleeping like a log in a prison cell somewhere.
Biberkopf is constantly and naively looking for answers as to why fate has dealt him bad cards, but he lacks the self-consciousness required to obtain useful answers. But, for me, the dominant and most interesting character is Reinhold, Biberkopf's dark nemesis. He only appears from episode five onwards, and yet he seems to dominate proceedings, and is superbly played by Gottfried John. (It should be stated that the acting throughout by almost everyone is exemplary.)
This is a rambling epic, but an epic all the same. And yet, despite its title, the story could have been set in London or Paris, or in any other large city: and it could also have been set, with due modifications, in the eighteenth century or in the twenty-first. To that extent the story of Franz Biberkopf is a universal one, but whether you want to spend so much time having it be retold to you in this form is a paradoxical question that only you can answer after having seen it.
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