The next screening is an enigmatic key to two of the twentieth century’s most perceptively disturbing, and illuminating, artists: the French author Jean Genet and the German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. It marked Fassbinder’s final film as a writer/director and was posthumously released just months after the director died of a drug overdose in June 1982. 

1983, 90 min, dir. RW Fassbinder, starring Jeanne Moreau, Günther Kaufmann, Franco Nero, a German-French co-production in English!! No German subtitles.  


TIME: 17h00

VENUE: Howard College, MTB North Wing, 1st Floor, German Programme, Media Room F251 

About the film:
Based on author Jean Genet’s 1947 novel Querelle de Brest, the movie “Querelle is the tale of a beautiful, proud and hard-as-nails loner, the sailor Querelle (Brad Davis – this is one of Fassbinder’s few films shot in English), whose commanding officer, Lieutenant Seblon (Franco Nero), is obsessed with him. Querelle turns on his drug-smuggling partner and murders him. He goes to a notorious brothel run by the rapacious Lysiane (Jeanne Moreau), who leads him into his first homosexual encounter, with her husband Nono (Günther Kaufmann). Lysiane is madly in love with Querelle, but takes his brother Robert (Hanno Pöschl) as a substitute. Robert and Querelle have an incestuous relationship, which they try to hide. Later, Querelle falls in love with a fellow murderer, Gil, who bears an uncanny resemblance to his brother (both Robert and Gil are played by Hanno Pöschl). Gil is having an affair with an angelic young man named Roger (Laurent Male). Querelle’s increasing passion for Gil, the first man he has loved, panics him, so he betrays him to the police. But by now Querelle has become vulnerable, and he at last allows himself to submit to Seblon. 

“Querelle is Fassbinder’s most luridly experimental film, filled with extremes of visual design and debauched characters, his most grotesque since Whity and Satan’s Brew. It’s as if he had gone down into a maelstrom of operatic emotion (say, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Strauss’s Salome, Berg’s Wozzeck – Fassbinder was an opera devotee), and then transformed that passion into shattering images; his extremes of color and composition are like the most intense music made flesh. Of course, the film derives from Jean Genet’s extraordinary – and equally lurid – book, although the author would be surprised to see a video arcade, decades before its invention, in this adaptation. But such anachronistic shocks (there are others) are as intention as Fassbinder’s revolutionary extremes, even for him, image and sound: as he states, on a title card in the opening credits, this is a film about Genet’s novel, not a mere picturization. 

“It’s taken many years, and several viewings, for me finally to connect with Querelle, but it now seems one of Fassbinder’s greatest, and most labyrinthine, works. It is poignant to realize that this film, which reaches a new, albeit horrific, aesthetic peak for Fassbinder was also his last work. On June 10, 1982 he died – some people say commited suicide – from a heart attack caused by sleeping pills and cocaine, after he had finished the picture’s editing but before its premiere.” (source:


For more details please contact:  

Dr Marion Pape
German Studies
University of KwaZulu-Natal
School of Arts
Durban, 4041
Tel: 0027-31-260 1086 / 2380
Fax: 0027-31-260 1242

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