Wednesday, November 29, 2023

2023 Blind Spot Series: Eight Hours Don't Make a Day


Written and directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Acht Stunden sind kein Tag (Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day) is the story of a working-class family living in Cologne, West Germany where a young toolmaker copes with his world as well as his tumultuous life with his family, co-workers, and girlfriend. Commissioned by the WDR, the five-part TV miniseries is an exploration of a working class family as it explores the many trials and tribulations of this family with its young man at the center of it. Starring Gottfried John, Hanna Schygulla, Luise Ullrich, Werner Finck, Anita Bucher, Wolfried Lier, Christine Oesterlein, Renate Roland, Kurt Raab, Andrea Schober, Thorsten Massinger, Irm Hermann, Wolfgang Zerlett, Wolfgang Schenck, Herb Andress, Rudolf Waldemar Brem, Hans Hirschmuller, Peter Gauche, Grigorios Karipidis, Karl Scheyedt, Victor Curland, and Rainer Hauer. Acht Stunden sind kein Tag is a majestic and rich TV miniseries from Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Episode 1: Jochen and Marion

It’s a birthday celebration for the family matriarch (Luise Ullrich) as her grandson Jochen (Gottfried John) goes out to buy more champagne for his annoying aunt Klara (Christine Oesterlein) is when he meets Marion (Hanna Schygulla) who is trying to buy pickles from a vending machine. The two immediately fall in love as Jochen introduces her to his family as she would later befriend Jochen’s sister Monika (Renate Roland) who is trying to find a friend to talk to due to her strained marriage to Harald (Kurt Raab). The episode also has Jochen dealing with problems at his job working at a factory making tools where he comes up with a plan that he hopes would help the workers only for their bonuses to be pulled. It all plays into this man falling in love and trying to do good for everyone he works including a middle-aged foreman in Kretzschmer (Victor Curland) who sympathizes with the workers.

Episode 2: Grandma and Gregor

Grandma and her new boyfriend Gregor (Werner Finck) go apartment hunting throughout the city as they discover not just the high prices for the apartments but also places with terrible locations. Upon discovering a place that they feel is suitable for them despite its expensive yet fair price, they see that a local library is shutting down as they decided to turn the place into a kindergarten for the neighborhood children to play despite being unable to get a permit to hold such a place. Yet, it would take mothers from the neighborhood, Jochen, Marion, and several of Jochen’s co-workers to help out. The episode also play into Jochen and Marion’s growing relationship as her little brother Manni (Thorsten Massinger) would attend the kindergarten along with Monika’s daughter Sylvia (Andrea Schober). Another subplot involves Franz (Wolfgang Schenck) trying to become the new full-time foreman with the support of Jochen and other co-workers.

Episode 3: Franz and Ernst

The episode revolves around Franz trying to pass a foreman exam despite the fact that he’s not very good at math and the company has already hired a new foreman from another company in Ernst (Peter Gauhe) despite a promise to Franz that he would get the job if he passed his exam. Jochen and Marion help out as does his fellow co-workers while Jochen’s best friend Manfred (Wolfgang Zerlett) gets to know Ernst as he learns more about him where a stunt to get Ernst fired backfires only for Ernst to take action to the surprise of everyone. The episode also includes a subplot in which Jochen’s father Wolf (Wolfried Lier) is unhappy at how quiet his apartment has been until Grandma comes up with an idea for him to quarrel with someone as things don’t work out.

Episode 4: Harald and Monika.

Gottfried and Marion take a huge step into their relationship though Gottfried’s first encounter with Marion’s mother (Brigitte Mira) is awkward leading to Marion’s mother being disapproving of the relationship. The two discuss the future of their relationship as they go to family and friends for advice as they both make a decision that would impact everyone. The episode also play into the disintegrating relationship between Harald and Monika as the latter turns to Gottfried, Marion, her parents, and her grandmother for help as she wants a divorce but Harald wants custody of their daughter leading to many issues. It would all culminate at a wedding party for Gottfried and Marion where a lot happens including the resolution over Marion and Harald with the unexpected help of Klara.

Episode 5: Irmgard and Rolf.

When news that a new factory is to be built at the other side of town that would force workers to be relocated making things for them including Gottfried difficult just as he and Marion bought a new apartment. It also makes things worse for Marion’s friend/co-worker Irmgard (Irm Hermann) who had just began a relationship with one of Gottfried’s co-workers in Rolf (Rudolf Waldemar Brem) as they met at Gottfried and Marion’s wedding party. Gottfried, Franz, and the other workers come up with a plan they would hope that would benefit them as they turn to the factory’s head manager Dr. Betram (Klaus Lowitsch) who reads their proposals and takes it into consideration. The episode also plays into Manfred’s longing for Monika who embarks into a relationship with a man that is trying to pull her into a scheme. Gottfried and Marion concoct a big plan as it relates to the apartment that Gottfried’s parents would own as a way to plan for their future with Rolf and Irmgard living with them as they would succeed but Marion laments over the role of working people as it relates to everything Gottfried is working for.

The TV miniseries follows the lives of the Epp family as they live in Cologne, West Germany as they deal with many social and political changes that occur in their lives. Yet, for all of the chaos and dysfunction that looms within the family is a lot of love no matter how much they annoy each other sometimes. Even as various individuals in the family would embark their own lives with Gottfried and Marion being in the center along with Gottfried’s grandmother and her boyfriend Gregor being this support system for Gottfried, Monika, and Marion. Even as Marion’s younger brother Manni and Monika’s daughter Sylvia become friends at the kindergarten that Grandma and Gregor would run. Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s script play into the many schematics that would occur throughout the family as well as the people that surround them including Gottfried’s co-workers who often help out with Gottfried also helping them out as well.

Fassbinder’s direction is engaging for the way he portrays the life of a working-class family in Cologne as each episode opens with the notable locations of the city and the closing shot would be of a factory next to a canal as a canal boat would pass by. The city would be a key character in the film with Fassbinder using certain locations and such to play into this world that these characters live in as it is this world that is vibrant for many involved despite the fact that there’s also things that the working class doesn’t have. While there are some wide shots to play into some of the locations, much of Fassbinder’s direction remains intimate with its usage of close-ups and medium shots. Even in scenes where conversations occur as he would pan the camera from one area to another or to use a dolly-tracking shot to circle around a table. Yet, Fassbinder would also play into this world that is the factory that would include bits such as a wide shot of all of the men showering with glimpses of full-frontal nudity along with other quirks that add to miniseries relating to humor and drama.

Fassbinder also plays into the family dynamic as Wolf always likes to get into arguments and such with his wife Kathe (Anita Bucher) always trying to get him to calm down and make him see reason. Yet, whenever there’s a party and he’s drunk. He is this jovial and lively person that wants to dance with every woman in the party but also be extremely loving towards Kathe as it plays into a man who has a hard time dealing with reality unless he gets drunk and not worry too much. Fassbinder also play into a lot of things such as the fact that Grandma and Gregor likes to eat at a restaurant surrounded by pet birds while Gottfried and Marion often hang out at certain places they like with American and British music in the background. Fassbinder maintains this atmosphere that does feel loose but also has this element of socialist ideals in the way Gottfried, Marion, Grandma, and Gregor approach things in wanting to help people though it is about getting paid fairly for Gottfried and Marion while Grandma and Marion want to help out. The series’ ending at five episodes, instead of the original eight that Fassbinder had intended to, is about everything Gottfried and Marion had worked for but also this realization into the way the world works with Grandma and Gregor seeing a hopeful world for everyone around them. Overall, Fassbinder crafts a heartfelt and whimsical film about the life of a working class family in Cologne, West Germany.

Cinematographer Dietrich Lohmann does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on low-key yet colorful natural lighting for some of the interiors along with the usage of available light for some exterior scenes at night. Editor Marie Anne Gerhardt does excellent work with the editing with its approach to jump-cuts as well as some straight cuts for some dramatic and humorous moments. Production designers Manfred Lutz, Kurt Raab, and costume designer Gisela Rocken do amazing work with the look of the homes that the characters live in as well as the office that Marion works at with Irmgard as well as the factory that Jochen works at and the kindergarten that Grandma and Gregor run with Rocken creating some unique clothing of the times including some of the dresses that Marion and Monika wear.

The sound work of Gerhardt Trampert is superb for its natural approach to sound as it plays to everything that is happening as well as some unique sound effects that add to the film’s humor and drama. The music by Jean Gepoint is wonderful for its playful score with its usage of woodwinds and folk instruments as it play into this working class environment these characters live in with a soundtrack that includes various German pop tunes of the times as well as music from Janis Joplin, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Ennio Morricone, Spooky Tooth, the Drifters, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, the Rolling Stones, Paul Anka, the Everly Brothers, Bobby Darin, Paul Anka, and the Velvet Underground .

The film’s marvelous cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Eva Mattes as a café waitress, Ulli Lommel as Marion’s ex-boyfriend Peter, Margit Carstensen as a woman who used to run the library that would become the kindergarten that Grandma and Gregor would run, Klaus Lowitsch as the factory manager Dr. Betram who is willing to listen to the workers for their demands knowing what good could come from it, Brigitte Mira as Marion’s mother who doesn’t approve of Gottfried at first until she gets to know him and his family, Ruth Drexel as Franz’s wife, Katrin Schaake as a landlady, Christine Oesterlein as the bourgeois aunt Klara who is a drama queen to the family, and Hans Gromball as a man Monika meets after her divorce in the fifth episode who tries to get her and Grandma into a money investment that Grandma is suspicious about. In the roles of various co-workers that Jochen works with in the factory include Victor Curland as the old foreman Kretzschmer as a man that everyone likes, Rainer Hauer as supervisor Gross, Karl Scheydt as Peter, Grigorios Karipidis as the Italian immigrant Giuseppe, Peter Gauhe as Kretzschmer’s replacement Ernst who didn’t want the job as he would help Franz in getting the job, Hans Hirschmuller as Jurgen, Herb Andress as the often cynical Rudiger who dislikes Giuseppe because he’s a foreigner, El Hedi ben Salem as another immigrant worker in Arbeiter, and Rudolf Waldemar Brem as Rolf whom Irmgard would meet at a party and fall for.

Wolfgang Schenck is terrific as Franz as a kindly man whom the workers like as they vouch for him as a foreman despite his poor math until Ernst helps him. Andrea Schober and Thorsten Massinger are superb in their respective roles as Monika/Harald’s daughter Sylvia and Marion’s younger brother Manni as two adolescent kids who befriend each other at Grandma and Gregor’s kindergarten with the latter helping the former over her issues with her dad. Wolfgang Zerlett is fantastic as Manfred as Jochen’s best friend who often pines for Monika as well as be a friend to the family. Kurt Raab is excellent as Sylvia’s father/Monika’s husband Harald as a man that is all about discipline and order as he is also cruel while Renate Roland is brilliant as Monika as a woman eager to have some freedom in her life but also some happiness in her life while finding a friend in Marion. Irm Hermann is amazing as Marion’s best friend/co-worker Irmgard as a woman who is quite cynical at times yet finds herself feeling happier upon meeting Rolf.

Anita Bucher and Wolfried Lier are incredible in their respective roles as Jochen and Monika’s parents in Kathe and Wolf with the former as this woman who is trying to keep things calm and be supportive as well as be calm towards the latter who is often frustrated with the world yet is a far kinder person when he gets drunk. Werner Finck ad Luise Ulrich are great in their respective roles as Gregor and Grandma as the former is a widower who falls for Grandma and helps out her in her ideas while the latter is this energetic slice of life who has ideas while is also full of love in the people she helps out as she is a major standout of the film. Hanna Schygulla is radiant as Marion as a young woman who works for a newspaper as she falls for Jochen while is also a woman with her own mind as she helps out Jochen’s friends and family. Finally there’s Gottfried John in a phenomenal performance as Jochen Epp as young man who works in a factory as he does what he can to help out his co-workers while also falling in love with Marion as he starts to think about a life of his own while dealing with the dysfunction within the family.

Acht Stunden sind kein Tag is a tremendous TV miniseries from Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Featuring a great ensemble cast, a compelling story that explores a family dealing with many life changes, lovely visuals, and a fantastic music soundtrack. It is a TV miniseries that follows the life of a family as well as explore the ideas of a socialist world clashing with ideas of capitalism. In the end, Acht Stunden sind kein Tag is a spectacular TV miniseries from Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Films: Love is Colder Than Death - (Katzelmacher) - (Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?) - (Rio das Mortes) - (The American Soldier) - (Whity) - (Beware of a Holy Whore) – The Merchant of Four Seasons - The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant - (Jailbait) - World on a Wire - Ali: Fear Eats the Soul - (Martha (1974 film)) - (Effi Briest) - (Fox and His Friends) - (Mother Kuster’s Trip to Heaven) – (I Only Want You to Love Me) – Satan's Brew - (Chinese Roulette) - (Germany in Autumn) - (Despair) - (In a Year of 13 Moons) – The Marriage of Maria Braun - (Third Generation) - (Berlin Alexanderplatz) - (Lili Marleen) – Lola (1981 film) - Veronika Voss - Querelle

© thevoid99 2023


Brittani Burnham said...

Oh I think I would like this!

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-It is quite long at nearly 8 hours breaking into five episodes but it is worth it as I also think it's one of Fassbinder's more accessible works as it is this charming family drama with some humor and such. It does owe more to the melodramas of Douglas Sirk but it has something that is upbeat but also with a great music soundtrack.