Peter (Zeplichal) desperately loves his Mutter (Mangold) and Vater (Allerson); he even builds them a house with his own two hands. Yet despite his efforts, they treat him with cold indifference. When he meets and marries Erika (Aberle), it seems he’s at last found the love he’s been searching for. Though all is well at first, his intense desire to please his wife leads him to lavish her with ever more extravagant gifts, straining their finances to the brink. When his income from his construction work dries up, it’s only a matter of time before Peter is pushed to his limit.
Why we love it
Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s made-for-TV masterwork — an underexposed highlight in a career full of gems — has been unavailable for far too long. This searing drama about a man driven to the edge by childhood demons sneaks up on you, but soon enough you’ll be transfixed by Peter’s predicament, somewhat akin to watching a car accident in slow motion. Actor Ziplichal turns in a truly haunting performance; as his character’s circumstances grow more and more dire, his saucer-like eyes increasingly betray his helplessness and desperation. Fassbinder fans in particular should pounce on this newly rediscovered gem.