Fassbinder’s highly stylized Querelle (1982) is at once a tribute to and an
interpretation of Jean Genet’s original novel Querelle de Brest (written 1947, published
Using an impressionist set, Fassbinder collapses space, forcing the viewer to be always aware of the intrigue
and raw lustiness of the environment. Constantly masked by the haze of soft focus, the viewer is never
allowed to forget that he or she is viewing a film, a sort of parable.
The allure of the forbidden is always present in Fassbinder’s erotic interpretation, from the forbidden
temptation of repressed incestuous homosexual desire to the invisible line between sex and violence. Power is
the centerpiece of the tension as well as that allure. There is the power of bestowed authority; the power of
ultimate masculinity; that of sensuality, love and desire.
Action is choreographed and coincides brilliantly with camera presence to reveal the tapestries of theme that
parallel the plot. Often the film seems more like an illustrated story book that is being read
aloud by some deranged uncle.
The style will not please all. Indeed many will find it less than engaging, although the 1940’s concept of
beautiful men may compensate. I found it to be thoroughly captivating as a cinematic experiment in literary