EIGHT HOURS DON’T MAKE A DAY – EPISODE 3 – FRANZ UND ERNST (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1973)


If this were released today, it’s easy to imagine a cycle of twitter responses: ‘It’s Marxist; It’s too Marxist; It’s not Marxist enough; It’s progressive but not left wing; Does the show condescend to working people?; I love the show; I hate the show; the show is redeemable’. And in all that critical noise, where one can’t see the forest for the trees, the importance and originality of the work is lost sight of. What’s still striking about this episode is that the main narrative through line takes place at work. A big chunk of our lives takes place at work, and yet how rare to see the problems of work dramatized. Drama sometimes takes place at work but is rarely related to work itself, and when it is, it tends to be be middle-class work and up. Here the drama takes place in a factory. The foreman has died. The workforce is agreed that Franz (Wolfgang Schenck) should get it. The supervisor agrees to wait to see whether he succeeds in passing the exam necessary for the certificate before he advertises the job but lies. Soon the workforce has to deal with a new  outside foreman, Ernst (Peter Gauhe), a very nice man, who luckily for all, doesn’t really want the job, and helps Franz pass the Maths exam he’s found such a hurdle in the past. Communication and co-operation turn out to be the key, at work as in the family. Another brilliant episode.

The closing credits, with the marvellously hummable theme tune and over a rather grim factory setting:

José Arroyo

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