Mother Kusters’ Trip to Heaven

Mother Kusters’ Trip to Heaven (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1975)

Frau Kusters (Brigitte Mira) is preparing dinner late one seemingly ordinary afternoon in her seemingly ordinary kitchen in Frankfurt, Germany. Mrs. Kusters wants to add canned sausages to the stew, her annoying daughter-in-law thinks otherwise. The point, we soon find out, is moot: Mr. Kusters has murdered the personnel director at the soap factory where he works before committing suicide.

The world of writer / director Rainer Werner Fassbinder is made of many elements that are unique to his films and his vision of the world; a cynic one you must say. The representation of Mother Kusters in the originally titled German Mutter Küsters Fahrt Zum Himmel is the representation of Germany when the nation attempted the social suicide of the Second World War. The murder of his boss followed by his suicide made Mr. Kusters a representation of how the patriarchal society of Germany failed on its people and left them at the mercy of anyone. Mother Kusters enters a territory where she has almost no one to find help and support in the situation. Her story is taken as sensationalism by the journalists, she is recruited by socialists, and she even enrolled in an anarchist group in the first of the two endings of the film. We will get back at this last thing later.

It makes Mother Kusters’ the most post French New Wave Godardian film made by Fassbinder. However, the German director gets cynical with every movement or dogma he encounters in his film. There is a pessimistic violence in Mother Kusters that is set by the sudden death of Mr. Kusters.

The film also feels more like an essay on politics and seems to translate Fassbinder’s loath for the German nation. It is difficult to get his clear thoughts on the story because of the ever change of focus and even the dual endings that are completely opposed to one another. The second one, of the American version, feels like a forced happy ending that makes us doubt of the widower’s truth. While the first ending that is told with only captions is more tragic and shows that there is no issue but to let things get where they are and how they will always be.

It is an interesting film in the career of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, definitely not my favorite but another strong effort. One thing I did not mentioned a lot in my other posts about Fassbinder’s films is the cinematography by Michael Ballhaus, which I enjoy a lot and I think that he is often overlooked for the most mainstream names of the 1970’s. However, a long time collaborator to Fassbinder, Ballhaus used to be able to make that era seems vibrant and his use of colors is outstanding and I can understand why later in his career he worked with Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Mike Nicholls.

If the political Jean-Luc Godard of Weekend and Tout Va Bien is your cup of tea and that you loved the BRD trilogy by Fassbinder I would then highly recommend Mother Kusters’ Trip to Heaven. Otherwise, it is a dense film that needs all your attention and has a lot to say and might need more than one viewing.

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