Berlin Alexanderplatz was not a ratings success and the ninth episode vividly conveys why that is so. Biberkop’s murderous attack on his wife is shown at the beginning and the middle of the episode. In the beginning during a fainting fit as Eva is trying to rationalise why becoming Mieze’s pimp is best for everyone. In the middle, as Fassbinder in voice-over reads the parable of a father’s sacrifice of his son to fulfil the will of God.

The parable of the sacrifice

This is also the episode where Bieberkopf goes to confront Reinhold. Reinhold through him out of the car, tried to kill him, caused the loss of right arm; he’s the reason Bieberkopf is once more a pimp after all his attempts at leading a decent life. Why did Reinhold do it? He really ought to kill him. After all, he’s less than a man now, chicken feed. What’s the use of cripples? Better to do away with them altogether, they both agree. But of course they are both crippled in different ways, and this is the episode that shows how they’re tied together through a bond that is equal parts love and resentment.

The episode also has an extended discussion of the state and of capital, of how workers are exploited and of which system might benefit workers most. Bieberkop goes to a political meeting for lack of anything better to but during the speeches he drifts away into dreams of sex. Besides, he’s no longer a worker, he’s a pimp. Morover, The German Reich is a Republic and anyone who doesn’t believe it will get a bullet through the neck.

One can understand why viewers might nor rush to their TV sets. But it is great.

José Arroyo

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