Rainer Werner Fassbinder

"It isn't easy to accept that suffering can also be beautiful."

Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Dead by 37, openly bisexual, constantly controversial: Rainer Werner Fassbinder was arguably post-war Germany’s greatest filmmaker. A fearless artist who knew no taboos, he combined scathing social criticism with profound psychological insight.

After failing to get into film school he turned instead to the theatre, rapidly winning renown as a radical, innovative writer-director. With ferocious energy, though minimal resources, he started to make films, building a loyal team of actors and technicians drawn from the theatre (his first 10 features were made in less than two years).

An insatiable film addict from early childhood, Fassbinder drew inspiration from the French New Wave and, later, from the Hollywood melodramas of Douglas Sirk and others. But what emerged from his dazzling fusion of style and content was a powerful, personal vision of people imprisoned by social constraints and their own contradictory desires. Provocative, poignant, darkly witty: these are films that could change your life.

Having made a truly extraordinary 41 films in 14 years, it can be hard to know where to start with Fassbinder. Here, Sight & Sound's Alex Davidson takes you through ten essential titles.