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Berlin Alexanderplatz (The Criterion Collection)

34 customer reviews

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(Nov 13, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Rainer Werner Fassbinder s wildly controversial fifteen-hour-plus Berlin Alexanderplatz, based on Alfred Döblin s great modernist novel, was the crowning achievement of a prolific director who, at age thirty-four, had already made forty films. Fassbinder s immersive epic, restored in 2006 and available on DVD in this country for the first time, follows the hulking, violent, yet strangely childlike ex-convict Franz Biberkopf (Günter Lamprecht) as he attempts to become an honest soul amidst the corrosive urban landscape of Weimar-era Germany. With equal parts cynicism and humanity, Fassbinder details a mammoth portrait of a common man struggling to survive in a viciously uncommon time.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s epic adaptation of Alfred Döblin’s German novel, written (and set) between two world wars in the 20th century, is still every bit the towering achievement it appeared to be upon the episodic, 15-hour film’s 1983 theatrical release in America. The story of a hapless lug buffeted by forces of discontent and disastrous change in Germany--following the country’s defeat at Versailles and during the rise of the Third Reich--Berlin Alexanderplatz is a roaming, hulking nightmare about people with no control over their destinies. The film opens with central character Franz Biberkopf (Gunter Lamprecht) struggling to reintegrate into the world after a four-year incarceration for murdering his girlfriend. Half-mad with guilt, sensory overload, sexual starvation and general disorientation, Franz goes in search of a plan for survival but finds the ground constantly shifting beneath his feet. Hooking up with the docile Lina (Elisabeth Trissenaar), Franz vows to straighten out his life and avoid his old tendencies toward petty thievery and pimping. But the alternatives are typically eclipsed by bad luck, unstoppable impulses, temptation and violent opposition between crime and order, Communists and fascists, dreamers and scoundrels. Over time, Franz becomes everything from shoelace salesman to Nazi sympathizer to pawn of a crime boss to victim of his fate. Along the way, he falls apart repeatedly, then picks himself up to see what might come next. Unfortunately, what comes next is generally another peek into the social and economic chaos of his time. Fassbinder, who died at age 36 before Berlin Alexanderplatz was released theatrically in America, found in Döblin’s story something akin to the running theme of despair in his own, prolific output of 40 movies. Among his several masterpieces, Berlin Alexanderplatz is in a league of its own, not to be missed. --Tom Keogh

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Günter Lamprecht, Peter Kollek, Mechthild Grossmann, Hans Zander, Yaak Karsunke
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 7
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: November 13, 2007
  • Run Time: 941 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000VARC2S
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,608 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Berlin Alexanderplatz (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Bryan A. Pfleeger VINE VOICE on December 30, 2007
Verified Purchase
Twenty-six years after its creation Berlin Alexanderplatz is finally given the restoration it so desperately deserved.Fassbinder's monumental fifteen plus hour epic has been completely restored and remastered so that the story of the hapless Franz Biberkopf can finally be experienced in all its glory.

The film (presented in 13 episodes and an epilogue) follows the daily life of Franz Biberkopf (Gunter Lamprecht) from his release from prison for the murder of his girlfriend as he tries to lead a decent life in post World War I Berlin. Along the way he becomes among other things a seller of shoestrings, a newspaper salesman, a pimp and a petty thief.

Fassbinder's world is populated with a panoply of ordinary people and lowlifes. The key is that the viewer begins to care about these people as if he knew them. One reviewer described the Biberkopf character as an uncle that the German people invited into their homes each week.

The film looks like it never looked before. Director of Photography, Xaver Schwarzenberger says that the image is now able to be seen as it was intended. Originally shot on 16mm the film has been completely restored and the color regraded. The result, while not perfect is as good as it has ever been. The film has a sort of brownish gold glow that suits it quite well.

The package by Criterion presents the film in a windowboxed version that runs for 941 minutes. This is about 4% longer than the original due to a NTSC slow down of the original Pal 25 frame per second master. The sound is mono but holds up quite well and the subtitling is clear and easy to read.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful By E. Lindsey on October 10, 2007
Long one of the most sought after video bootlegs in the world, Fassbinders' 931 minute tele-film adaptation of the Alfred Doblin novel "Berlin Alexanderplatz" is one of the all time great accomplishments in cinema. It was originally filmed in 16 millimeter as a German television series; shown in the USA in both a two day 7+ hour a day festival type event, and in shortened versions... Having the full version, restored (hopefully lovingly and successfully), is something very long in the waiting. For any true student of the art of cinema this is a must have. There is decidedly too much to say, or risk giving away, by giving a plot review of this nearly 16 hour masterpiece. For 27 years I have told people that "the last 3 hours of this film is possibly the greatest achievement in film art history." Why? Fassbinder directs like a master conductor artfully emulating the styles of a pantheon of the great cinema maestro's to that date - at the same time proving both their genius -- and his own. Stock the house with German fare and bier, wait for a long rainy weekend, get together with a literate friend or two - and enter into one of the most rewarding, fascinating, and awe inspiring examples of filmic story telling ever created. It is not always a happy story to be sure -- but it is indeed one of the most astounding viewing experiences a spectator can ever have.
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David Lean, one of my favorite directors and the man responsible for Lawrence of Arabia and Bridge on the River Kwai, once said that seeing a film after you haven't seen it in a long time was like seeing an old friend you haven't seen for a dog's age, and it makes you feel alive again when the memories flow within you and your friend. I feel like that now, as Criterion has decided to return a film/miniseries/friend whom I have not seen in what feels like an eternity. I feel like this miniseries, which I watched as a young person and have never forgotten it (I saw it on PBS...imagine what the ignorants in Congress would say about PBS broadcasting it today), is coming to pay its respects to me, and I look so forward to seeing it and embracing it. This is a truly magnificent achievement in film/television history, one of Fassbinder's most towering achievements, and a milestone in what television and film can do. All the episodes are wonderful, but the epilogue (as one reviewer noted) is truly amazing, and seeing it as a young person really fired my imagination. Fassbinder made his own boundaries in his life and in his art, then always crossed them. There is no better example than this film/miniseries. I miss him terribly (he died a few years after this miniseries was completed), and his art. But thankfully, as with all great artists, the art lives on, breathing, living, and embracing each one of us who comes in contact with it, touching us, and staying with us forever...

A wonderful, truly ironic thing about this miniseries is that when it was broadcast in West Germany, it was actually a critical and commercial failure. Fassbinder was a lightning rod for controversy in West Germany, and this film didn't help matters much.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Galina on May 2, 2008
It took me over four months to finish watching Berlin Alexanderplatz that Criterion released on seven discs. As with the other two my favorite TV Series (Ingmar Bergman's "Fanny and Alexander" and "Scenes from the Marriage), Criterion deserves the highest praise for the quality of the set. I would receive a disc from Netflix, watch it without stopping and then I would need a break - so intense and involving, and demanding the film was. It's been said a lot about Werner Rainer Fassbinder's most opulent, magnificent, and controversial work based on the novel "Berlin Alexanderplatz" written by Alfred Döblin in 1929 that Fassbinder had known by heart and always wanted to adapt. In short, "Berlin Alexanderplatz" is a story of an ex-convict Franz Biberkopf and his attempts to lead a good honest life after he was released from the prison where he had spent four years for accidentally murdering his girlfriend in the fit of rage. Döblin's book is considered one of the most important German novels, which used the techniques similar to and is as influential as James Joyce's "Ulysses" and John Dos Passos' "Manhattan". As Joyce and Dos Passos, Doblin paints the portrait of the city that we could recognize and re-build in our imagination even if Berlin of the 1920s, the most modern city of its time does not exist anymore. Doblin also had shown how the city affects the life of a person and tears them apart. There could be many reasons why Fassbinder felt so strongly about the novel and always dreamt about adapting it to the screen. He was certainly fascinated by the language of the book and he took it upon himself to narrate some of the most impressive pages as the comments to the action on the screen.Read more ›
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Worth the price?
I have not seen the film myself. However, I would recommend buying it, simply for the Criterion Collection experience alone. Very rarely do they let you down, especially with something of this magnitude.
Dec 2, 2008 by Jon Hillman |  See all 2 posts
only german audio and only english subtitles... which is kind of odd to me.. i would have expected at least spanish subtitles but not so...
Nov 24, 2007 by Stalwart Kreinblaster |  See all 4 posts
german audio
english subtitles
no other available languages oddly
Nov 24, 2007 by Stalwart Kreinblaster |  See all 3 posts
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