Tag Archives: Television mini-series

EIGHT HOURS DON’T MAKE A DAY – OMA AND GREGOR (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1973)

 

There are various subplots threaded through the second episode: Jochen (Gottfried John) and Marion (Hannah Schygulla) go to a striptease; Monika (Renate Roland) decides to put her child in kindergarten and start working against her husband’s wishes – buying an expensive hat is her first act of rebellion; Franz (Wolfgang Schenck) decides to apply for the job of foreman.

However, the main plot of the second episode revolves around Oma (Luise Ulrich) and Gregor (Werner Finck).

Oma and Gregor have fallen in love and want to move in together. She’s resolved that they won’t pay a penny more than the standard expectation, which is 20% of net income (can you imagine?). Her pension is 356 marks a month; his is 760; so 217 is her budget and she’s sticking to it. Of course they can’t find a suitable flat for that amount. Oma comes up with various ruses (run down the flat, run down the neighbourhood etc) but none of them work. She believes that learning is alright but thinking is better; and thinking resulting in action is better than that.

In their search for a flat, they see that the council is closing down a library and have no plans to use the space. All this whilst children are in the street risking death because the council doesn’t have enough kindergarten places. She gets her grandson and his work mates work  to come to the space, do an overnight make-over and invites the children into the space. She gets the neighbourhood ladies on side and they’re a success. Of course, the council swoops down – criminals run free but there are enough policemen to jail pensioners and children! – but even though Gregor keeps saying ‘Well, that’s just the way things are’, Oma doesn’t accept it. They form a neighbourhood committee, get the press on side and at the end the neighbourhood has a kindergarten, they have new jobs and a flat, and the viewer has learned something about rents and squatters rights in Cologne in the early 70s.

This civic lesson is conveyed with zest, charm and energy through the madcap antics of the very endearing Oma, played with edge and intelligence and a bit of an edge by Louise Ulrich, and via the endearing earnestness with which the elderly couple’s developing relationship is depicted. Politics, drama, charm. It’s quite a combination.

 

José Arroyo