EPISODE TWELVE OF BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ: THE SERPENT IN THE SOUL OF THE SERPENT
Each man kills the thing he loves. Reinhold’s tried once before, by throwing Biberkopf out of the car. But all that Biberkopf lost then is an arm, enough to extinguish most men. But here is that damned Biberkopf, if not quite a Phoenix risen from the ashes, a happy parakeet, prancing around town, with a new girl; a girl who’s happy to wash him, wash for him, keep him. They’re madly in love with each other. It’s driving Reinhold mad.
One of the achievements of this episode is to dramatize such a radical and complex view of love. Biberkop’s a pimp, but one who wants no one other than Mieze, which Mieze finds abnormal. For her part, Mieze is a prostitute, one who occasionally falls in love with her clients, but who ultimately chooses Biberkopf. The accent here is on feeling rather than sexual acts; and what Biberkopf and Mieze feel for each other is shown as pure, spiritual, even though one of Biberkop’s jealous rages resulted in Mieze almost ending up like Ida.
Mieze wants to know all about Biberkopf, and insists on meeting his friends, even though he wants to keep them away from her, suspecting their roughness and immorality might somehow contaminate her. His eventual consent is the beginning of this tragedy. That’s where she meets Meck, who will sell them both out, and that’s where Reinhold sees them, is affronted by their happiness and decides to destroy it.
The last half-hour takes place in the countryside. Mieze agrees to let Meck drive her to Bad Freinwalde, where she hopes he will tell her more about Biberkopf. Instead, he delivers her to Reinhold. Mysteriously, the same waitress who served Biberkop and Mieze, serves, and witnesses, now.
The last half hour is staged as a dance of death, with Fassbinder himself bursting into the scene via voiceover reading passages of Ecclesiastes: ‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant; and a time to pluck up the planted.’
Mieze resists, Reinhold insists, the push and pull takes place in a woods that seems to get darker as the story advances; the dynamic becomes more dangerous; he shows her his tattoos (one is anvil); she’s seen many before; he’s never forced himself on a woman, says Reinhold, before doing so; does she know who she’s dealing with? Reinhold eventually admits that he’s the one who pushed Biberkopf out of the car; at which point, there’s no turning back; and beautiful, loving Mieze, so pure in loving feeling in spite of her many sins of the body, inevitably ends up a corpse in a misty woods. It’s a tour de force of acting and staging.