In a German film studio amid a half-built set, documentarian-turned-feature director Vera (Judith Engel) is trying to pull together a remake of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1972 film The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. This adaptation of Fassbinder’s own play, now considered a queer classic, featured an all-female cast orbiting around the manipulative titular protagonist. However, Vera wants to recast the crucial role of Karin with a male star, which would entirely change the sexual dynamics of the story. Whether she’ll manage to pull it off looks increasingly doubtful as agencies, TV commissioners and producers jostle over the final casting decisions, and a series of moderately known (in Germany) female actors come in to screen test for the role of Petra, each one mildly put out that they’re being asked to audition in the first place instead of being offered the role on her reputation alone.
Gradually it emerges that the protagonist of this particular subplot is not one of these grand dames but actor-for-hire Gerwin (Andreas Lust), a gay man hired to read the lines for the Karl/Karin character. Something about the cliquey vibe of the film set, the evenings boozing with the straight tech dudes and the proximity to making art again lures Gerwin back in. Vera is impressed with some of his screen-test performances and there’s a chance she might just hire him instead of the young star they all thought was locked in.
Writer-director Nicolas Wackerbarth (with co-screenwriter Hannes Held), best known for his own work as an actor, certainly captures the fetid atmosphere, fragile and bullish egos and comic-tragic gamesmanship of film sets. The choice of this particular Fassbinder story, with its abundant backbiting and bitchiness, is all the more apt. Nevertheless, Wackerbarth is no Fassbinder and the drab, handheld realism here lacks the flair of the film to which it alludes – although Lust gives a complex, layered performance at the centre.
Source: The Guardian