In a film where the eponymous heroine holds with her ‘feel good’ doctor the following dialogue :
Veronica Voss: You’ve given me a great deal of happiness.
Dr. Marianne Katz: I sold it to you.
one may be sure the film is going to be as dark as the soul of the dopefiend or of her ‘fixer.’ ”Veronika Voss,”is the second-to-last film of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. It is a chilly, tough, wicked satire set in Munich some 10 years after the collapse of the Nazi Germany. Fassbinder’s movies like ”The Marriage of Maria Braun” and ”Lola” deal with the economic miracle of Post-war Germany. The American ideal of ‘pursuit of happiness’ is imported as Hershey bar is, and practiced in the city in no holds barred struggle. Veronika Voss is one victim. We see beneath the façade of prosperity wounded creatures like Veronika Voss and Lola. Both are pawns. Lola the singer is the pawn of a corrupt contractor who has all the powers- that- be in his pocket except the idealistic but wet- behind- the- ears- goodness of the new City planner. Progress for the Slum Lord is in that he can spread his money around. The politicians and pillars of the society also see it that way. So Lola is there to corrupt the idealism that doesn’t bring money to him in the way he wants it. He well knows the honest city planner shall be on his way, so Lola must entrap him. Whereas Veronika has the misfortune to fall in the clutches of an evil doctor. She peddles pleasure as indicated in the dialogue quoted above. Veronicka Voss (Rosel Zech), a once-popular German movie actress who is rumored to have been a close friend of Goebbels has not the staying power of a filmstar like Betty Davis or Joan Crawford. She is blond and something like a Harlowt (with t silent); and as far as her acting goes she is the type who cannot possibly survive, without some help like Goebbels. It was before the war.
In the Post War Germany an economic miracle is blowing across Germany and for her help comes in the form Dr. Marianne Katz.
When we first see Veronika Voss she is in a Munich theater watching her former self in an old movie, one in which she is surrendering to an evil woman doctor in return for drugs to support her habit. ‘As life sometimes imitates terrible movies, the story of Veronika Voss becomes much like the plot of one of her films’(quote: NY Times review-By VINCENT CANBY
Published: September 24, 1982)
While walking through a park, a chance rain drives Veronika Voss to the friendly Robert Krohn (Hilmar Thate), a sports reporter. He gallantly offers her protection at least for now from getting wet. He is one of the few people in Munich who doesn’t remember her face or her name. Intrigued Veronika telephones Robert a couple of days later and asks him to meet her for tea.
At the restaurant, Veronika charms Robert as well as baffles him. As lighting in a restaurant she gives a hint of her ambience derived from her ‘dark self.’ As if to prove the point she says ”I like to seduce helpless men,” and then borrows 300 marks from him to buy a brooch. She also proves her amoral side by whisking him off right in front of his live- in photographer who shall dearly pay for loving him unreservedly.
Veronika takes him to her country house where they make love and she reaches a kind of orgasm, given the clue of Fassbinder’s sexual predilections an anticlimax, she reveals her dark self. She is a morphine addict.
The rest soon falls apart from romance of an ageing coquette with a naïve sportswriter into the dark realms of mystery. There isn’t much of mysterywhen the has been actress doesn’t want to be rescued from’ her pursuit of happiness.’ The music and crisp black and white photography adds to the acidulous touch of Fassbinder. Since I had touched upon his Lola earlier I shall merely add ‘Lola’ is in color, and its psychadelic color palette still makes it black in its overall emotional intensity. I close this appreciation with a touch of regret that his genius was cut down in the middle of its full flowering.
Trivia: The film is loosely based on the career of actress Sybillie Schmitz. It is reportedly influenced by Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard.
Fassbinder has a bit part in the beginning of the film sitting behind Voss in a movie theatre and watching her old movie. Lilo Pempeit (also Liselotte Eder) who plays the manager of a jewelry store was Fassbinder’s mother. Günther Kaufmann for whom Fassbinder earlier had an unrequited infatuation, plays in all three films of the cycle. In this one he is an enigmatic African-American G.I. Juliane Lorenz, seen in the brief role of a secretary, was a close associate of Fassbinder and the editor of this film.(Ack: wikipedia, NY Times Review)
VERONIKA VOSS, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder; screenplay (German with English subtitles) by Peter Marthesheimer and Pea Frohlich; director of photography, Xaver Schwarzenberger; edited by Juliane Lorenz; music by Peer Raben; produced by Thomas Schuhly; a production of Laura-Film/Tango Film in co-production with Rialto-Film/Trio- Film/Maran Film; Running time: 105 minutes. This film is rated R. Veronika Voss . . . . . Rosel Zech Robert Krohn . . . . . Hilmar Thate Henriette . . . . . Cornelia Froboess Dr. Katz . . . . . Annemarie Duringer Josefa . . . . . Doris Schade Dr. Edel . . . . . Eric Schumann Film Producer-Fat Man . . . . . Peter Berling G.I.-Dealer . . . . . Gunther Kaufmann Saleswoman . . . . . Sonja Neudorfer Her Boss . . . . . Lilo Pempeit