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1970 1h 25m Drama Romance List
Reviews 80% Audience Score Fewer than 50 Ratings
An anti-heroic figure chooses to live a dissipated life on the fringes of society. Read More Read Less

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Critics Reviews

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Nicholas Bell An exemplary piece of experimental adaptation from the New German Wave, Baal is a daring, contemporary conversation piece from an incredibly prolific chapter of cinema history. Rated: 3.5/5 Sep 16, 2020 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

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Audience Member Of the few acting roles Fassbinder did in his career, Baal is perhaps his greatest. He excellently embodies Brecht's poetic libertine, uniquely from David Bowie's wider known portrayal twelve years on. The movie benefits more if seen after some acquaintance with Fassbinder's directed movies. Then, one will recognize Kaufmann, Schygulla, and Hermann in their surprisingly minor roles, given their major presence in Fassbinder's films. There are some nice lines of poetry given. Not necessary to take seriously, there are some unintentionally humorous moments that make it more enjoyable. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/24/23 Full Review reuben m In the early '80s, as a theater student, I did an entire semester on Bertholdt Brecht. We focused on better known works such as MOTHER COURAGE and CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE, and spent a lot of time discussing how Brecht believed that audiences should not be pulled into sympathy or empathy for the characters, but to almost react to what he depicted in a "detached observer" manner. It was all interesting and very academic. One week, we spent two class sessions on BAAL. While some of the Brechtian characteristics were there already, it was different enough from everything else that we sort of put it aside. It was a difficult piece (so much poetry and so little plot) and I was happy enough to move on. Now, decades later, Criterion releases the Blu Ray of this vaguely remembered play and I thought it would be a great chance to experience BAAL and also see a bit of Rainer Werner Fassbinder as an actor. Well, I got what I wished for. By now stretch of the imagination was this an enjoyable film to watch in any traditional sense. Essentially no plot. Just a focus on an "artistic genius" who used his notoriety to mis-treat everyone around him, particularly the women who inexplicably loved him. He scorns all who would embrace him. He abuses food and drink. He, frankly, is given no opportunity to show the viewer that he is anything other than a complete, dangerous pig. Fassbinder, hardly the epitome of a "leading man", throws himself into this depiction with frightening's one of those performances where you wonder if the actor is really just playing himself or not. It's told in an episodic fashion, and while seemingly linear, it doesn't really have a plot. Just one encounter after another between Baal and the world & people around him. At no time is he sympathetic. He is a human interested in living like an animal...amoral, concerned only with his needs, and seeing other creatures only in how they can serve him. Sound good? It gets better...director Volker Schlondorff films it all with handheld 16mm cameras, mostly out in fields and forests and often along the side of some random road. It feels SO homemade. At 84 minutes, it sometimes feels like it will never end. This movie absolutely should not work. And yet. And yet. First of all, the character of Baal is pure and true. He never veers from the way he thinks life should be led. He has no regrets. He shows no love. Yet, as with an animal, he is very, very aware of nature around him. He speaks in metaphors that utilize images of the sky, the earth, the trees. And in the end, he finds that the squalor and deprivation of his life (compared to the way most of us would want to live) is beautiful. It's rare to encounter a character so lacking in compromise. He never violates his own code of ethics. They may be repugnant, but they certainly are steadfastly followed. And some of the dialogue is, literally, poetry and it has a kind of power only poetry possesses. And in the end, the film seems to be asking...was Baal really so bad, or was he just another kind of person altogether. Uncompromised and true to itself. Fassbinder was magnetic. Gross, yes...but magnetic. And the rest of the cast, particularly the women, were very committed to their roles. The music, although very much of its time, is remarkably effective. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member Though it is not hard to see the intention when you know Brecht, it is curious that this adaptation is less straightforward and more rambling than one would expect from one of his stories, being more of a pseudo-poetic mind trip than a consistent social commentary. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/14/23 Full Review Read all reviews

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Cast & Crew

Movie Info

Synopsis An anti-heroic figure chooses to live a dissipated life on the fringes of society.
Volker Schlöndorff
Walter Greifenstein
Volker Schlöndorff
Production Co
Hessischer Rundfunk, Hallelujah Films, Bayerischer Rundfunk
Drama, Romance
Original Language
Release Date (Streaming)
Jul 25, 2018
1h 25m
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