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Chinese Roulette

1976 1h 36m Drama List
83% Tomatometer 12 Reviews 69% Audience Score Fewer than 50 Ratings
Shocking revelations occur when cheating spouses and their daughter (Andrea Schober) gather at their country estate. Read More Read Less

Critics Reviews

View All (12) Critics Reviews
Vincent Canby New York Times Taking one step at a time, Mr. Fassbinder is exploring new methods of cinema narrative that are more original and daring than anything I've yet to see by film makers who call themselves avant-garde. Jul 6, 2015 Full Review Tim Robey Daily Telegraph (UK) If the premise suggests Nol Coward's Private Lives with an acrid dash of Pinter, Fassbinder is nothing if not winkingly in command of this brittle theatrical idiom. Jul 6, 2015 Full Review Ed Gonzalez Slant Magazine A rigorous extrapolation of deception as a survival tactic, and a vicious indictment of victimhood, martyrdom and the games people will play in order to destroy one other. Rated: 3.5/4 Jul 6, 2015 Full Review David Parkinson Radio Times Unfortunately, [Fassbinder's] cynical detachment leaves us appalled but unmoved. Rated: 3/5 Jul 6, 2015 Full Review Film4 Staff Film4 Rings so true it hurts. Jul 6, 2015 Full Review Christopher Null It just doesn't work. Rated: 3/5 Jul 6, 2015 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (7) audience reviews
Audience Member Chinese Roulette is a film fraught with cruelty and downright evil, lurking beneath sinister grins and betrayed by disconcerting laughs, waiting to be inflicted on everyone. Revolving around a married couple who are both having affairs, it's also a film of fraudulence and dishonesty. Just like Frau Kast's reaction after seeing the beggar who's been pretending to be blind all along taking off his glasses, the couple's, Kolbe and Ariane, reaction at seeing each other with their respective lovers is laughter; just jarring laughter, followed by silence and awkward intimacy. Then, themes of questionable and twisted morality are on full display, as we see Fassbinder toying with our views of what's right and wrong regarding fractured marriage and infidelity, while instilling it with a provocatively dark comedic tone in the process. Michael Ballhaus's camera constantly moves around people, going to and fro and switching the perspectives between them. Often through over-the-shoulder shots, which are predominantly used throughout, we see the four characters perceive each other's feelings while their minds concurrently preoccupied by the same thoughts and concerns. In a Persona-like style, Michael Ballhaus' blocking uses the profile of one actor to cut off the other, so that each two actors of the four seem to occupy the same space at the same time. We also get shots through glass and see-through objects, and doors unlocked or left ajar. Yet, and as Angela says, "Eavesdroppers often hear the false truth," what our characters see in, or hear about, each other couldn't be further from the truth, which is demonstrated by shallow, medium close-up shots, where a certain character is showcased in crisp focus and from the chest up, yet somewhat also noticeably distant. "In their hearts, they blame me for their messed-up lives." In a world where love is neither important nor fulfilling, and marriage is as brittle as glass, it is hardly surprising that it has stony-hearted and awfully terrible parenting. The cheating spouses' daughter, Angela — who's disabled, walking with crutches — has one of the revoltingly cruelest mother-daughter relationships I've seen depicted in film. Nothing comes close to it save for the one in Autumn Sonata. However, in Bergman's film, mistreatment and neglect built up a charge over the years, exploding in the form of spitefully hurtful remarks, whereas here we're witnessing the build-up, displayed growing in silent insinuations, until eventually blowing up — at the wrong target. In the climactic protracted sequence of the titular guessing game, the film contorts itself into a game of allusions to the characters' identities. This is where the film is at its most suffocating and claustrophobic despite the plenty of room given to decipher each enigmatic character. Personally, I feel that what's revealed about them leaves much to be desired, but that's perhaps its intended purpose. Hence, the ambiguous ending. It's insane how every main character in Chinese Roulette is hateful and despicable. Like, there's not a single one of them that could be called 'nice'. Nevertheless, it's easy to understand their deeds and comprehend their feelings. They feel like flawed, real people; incredibly horrible but real. Neither the husband nor the wife shows a visible sign of remorse whether towards one another or their daughter. Instead, they couldn't care less about any of these matters, and their actions appear to be driven by lust or unabashedly ruffling each other's feathers. Though undoubtedly a victim of a dysfunctional family and one whose only outlet to speak is through sign language with her governess, Trauntiz, Angela herself certainly ain't no angel. She even has some sort of a malevolent omniscient ability, enabling her to see through the rest of the characters and ultimately seems to have the upper hand on them. That's not mentioning there's a clear sense of creepiness about her, symbolised by her dolls. Kast is a cranky old woman confined to household chores who looks at anyone with a jaundiced eye, Gabriel Kast is a murky character trapped in adolescence and adulthood. He's the only one besides Angela, however, who seems to seek the truth, which explains the odd bond between the two of them. Chinese Roulette is a bleak and distressing chamber piece that demands contemplation, but it's surprisingly accessible due to the stylish camera work and fleshed-out, if deliberately vague, characters. Set in a world of heinous people hiding their deep-rooted nastiness with lies and silence, the film shows an edifice of fascism of family, which they built, coming down upon them. Chinese Roulette also has a warped sense of humour at play, manifested in its absurdist undertones, and further reinforced by a light classical music. It's a film that doesn't stop at seeing the parents' failures paid for by the children, and decides to offer them a chance to revenge themselves in the most wicked of ways. Crude, cold and intellectual, my first Fassbinder sure won't be the last and most likely would serve as a springboard into his filmography. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 02/07/23 Full Review Audience Member Ein Kammerspiel. Sehr bizarr. Sehr kalt und verstoerend. Die Message kam fuer mich nicht rueber. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/22/23 Full Review Audience Member Typical Fassbinder offering with his usual actors occupying the director's unique universe. No other filmmaker has been skilled or audacious enough to use Bergman's brooding affectations as a launching point to create an entirely original way of portraying human desperation and misery. A genius of an acquired taste. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/01/23 Full Review Audience Member Fassbinder tries to be clever. It doesn't work. Rated 1 out of 5 stars 02/01/23 Full Review Audience Member Overwrought melodrama as only Fassbinder could do. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/27/23 Full Review Audience Member A revealing drama that deserves praise for its exceptional direction, as Fassbinder creates an unsettling atmosphere mostly through an evoking soundtrack and a wonderful camera work that makes every shot look like they could be framed and put on a wall. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/14/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Chinese Roulette

My Rating


Cast & Crew

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Movie Info

Synopsis Shocking revelations occur when cheating spouses and their daughter (Andrea Schober) gather at their country estate.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Original Language
Release Date (Streaming)
Dec 10, 2017
1h 36m