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Ein Mann wie Eva (A Man Like Eva), 1984
Eva Mattes, Werner Stocker

Ein Mann wie Eva (A Man Like Eva), directed by Radu Gabrea, is a dark biographical sketch of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, one of the major directors of the New German Cinema. It tells the story of E.V.A., a film director "like" R.W.F., who is in the process of making a film with his company of actors in a run-down old mansion. The actors play actors playing roles in the film, so it operates on multiple levels. E.V.A. (played brilliantly by Eva Mattes, an actress who often worked with Fassbinder, and bears an uncanny resemblance to him in this film) is a genius like R.W.F., but also like him, a miserable excuse for a human being. The film opens with a quote by Andre Gide: "It is better to be hated for what one is than to be loved for what one is not." That seems to sum up E.V.A.'s (and R.W.F.'s) outlook on life rather well.

E.V.A. is engaged in a love-hate relationship with himself, and he projects this onto his actors and crew, using and abusing them in the most appalling ways, psychologically and sexually, but somehow managing to make them love him all the more, even to the point of despair and suicide. (In real life, R.W.F. exhibited total disregard for the feelings of his lovers, friends, and associates, and one of his lovers did kill himself.)

The film E.V.A. is making, Dumas' Lady of the Camellias, is a tragic love story which has parallels with the real lives of his troupe. The bisexual E.V.A. is in love with both his leading man, Walter (played by Werner Stocker) and his leading lady (Lisa Kreutzer), and in the course of things, screws them both over, literally and figuratively, in an utterly despicable and vicious manner. During a surrealistic ballroom scene at the end of the film, E.V.A.'s sadistic betrayals come to light, ending with the madness of one, and the death of another.

Werner was in his twenties when the film was made. Having never seen any of his work besides Highlander, I was curious to find out what he was like in a different sort of part, particularly one which called for a certain amount of sensuality. He was excellent, which didn't surprise me. But what did surprise and please me was that despite the differences in the roles, he projected the same almost ethereal presence in the film as he did in the series playing Darius. It obviously wasn't just something he put on for the two roles, but rather something that was very much a part of him. In his characteristically quiet, subtle way, he managed to express more with a look or a posture than some actors do with a whole speech. Even his silences were eloquent.

Minor caveats for people interested in seeing the film: It is an art-house flick, in German, with subtitles, and no "action" to speak of, so if you have a low tolerance for these things, Eva might not interest you. It also has a certain amount of nudity and bad language, and hetero- and homosexual acts are depicted, although the sex is in no way hard-core, and it is not the focus of the film. You may have trouble finding a copy to rent—I did, until I went to a rental place that specializes in art-house, indie, and foreign stuff (Thank, you, Liberty Hall!). The film may still be available for purchase in VHS online. Used rental copies have also been known to turn up on E-bay.

This review is Copyright ©1998 by tirnanog and may not be reproduced without permission.

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(This page last updated 05/15/2004)

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