《恐懼恐懼》:正常比死更冷new



法斯賓達說:「我幾乎每部作品都有一個人物有心身症。」心身症就是心理或精神的困擾所做成的身體疾病。在《恐懼吞噬心靈》(Ali: Fear Eats the Soul,1973),外勞主角和德國老婦的母子戀,看似終能克服種族、年齡差距及旁人阻撓,會有美滿結局,法斯賓達卻在結尾來一記回馬槍。男主角原來有不會根治、割完又會復發的胃潰瘍,醫生說那是外勞常見疾病,由壓力所致。

法斯賓達早期作品有一部奇片,以接近全即興對白及手搖鏡拍攝的《晴天霹靂》(Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?,1970),主角R先生是正常不過的上班族,在影片結尾,忽然拿起燭台打死妻子、兒子及鄰居。表面上,妻子及鄰居聊天令他無法專心看電視而狂性大發,但所謂「正常」的生活令R先生逐漸變得孤立,瘋狂的種子一早種下。 

該片名義上是法斯賓達及Michael Fengler合導,但基本上是Fengler的作品,拍攝時法斯賓達只出現過兩天。即使法斯賓達曾經提出撤回自己的名字,但瘋狂暗藏於家庭生活這個題材,仍有在他日後的作品出現,《恐懼恐懼》就是最佳的例子。

《恐懼恐懼》的女主角瑪吉卡斯坦遜(Margit Carstensen)可謂法斯賓達在漢娜舒古拉(Hanna Schygulla)以外,第二位最重要的女演員,只是舒古拉出現在法斯賓達名作的機率較多,令影迷普遍忽略卡斯坦遜,除了這兩位演員同為主角的《柏德娜的苦淚》(The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,1972)。舒古拉在拍峻《深閨怨婦》(Effi Briest,1974)後,自感難以達到法斯賓達要求,迴避參演他的作品幾年,直至在《婚事》(The Marriage of Maria Braun,1978)回歸。

舒古拉未疏遠法斯賓達時,卡斯坦遜已經舉足輕重,為法斯賓達演繹不少舒古拉當時無法駕馭的角色。假如只看《恐懼恐懼》及《柏德娜的苦淚》,是難以理解卡斯坦遜於法斯賓達的重要性,但加上電視作品《瑪爾塔》(Martha,1973),以及兩部戲劇的錄像紀錄:法斯賓達原創戲劇《不來梅的自由》(Bremen Freedom,1972)、改編自易卜生《玩偶之家》的《諾拉》(Nora Helmer,1973),就能清晣見到卡斯坦遜是法斯賓達用來探討女性被束縛及追求自主的不二之選。

《瑪爾塔》很值得和《恐懼恐懼》對照,除了同樣由卡斯坦遜飾演人妻,更因為兩部片在描寫女性在家庭制度的壓迫時,採用了頗不同的手法,形成了一種互補。

瑪爾塔是一名31歲的老處女,父親猝死後,她嫁給英俊、有事業、有品味的土木工程師。婚後,丈夫的虐待狂性格逐漸呈現,支配瑪爾塔的肉體及思想,令她與世隔絕。瑪爾塔在舊同事的幫助下逃走,追逐期間,瑪爾塔卻有意無意導致車禍,害死了舊同事,自己則半身不遂,餘生成為丈夫的囚犯。

《瑪爾塔》實在有太多不尋常情節,包括男主角類近剝削影片〔例如意大利的鉛黃恐怖片(giallo)〕的施虐,令人不能用寫實的目光去欣賞《瑪爾塔》,而是要在種種變態、荒誕、矛盾行徑的底下,折射出幾多隱而不宣的人性弱點。

例如在父親猝逝的現場,真正令瑪爾塔嚎哭的,是混亂期間她被人偷了手袋。度蜜月時,丈夫任由瑪爾塔曬傷全身,再強迫她行房,瑪爾塔既痛且興奮,是片中兩人的初次性接觸,可以視為女性初夜本質的變態版本。瑪爾塔坐在同事的車上,本是通往自由,她卻令汽車出事。

種種誇張情節背後,丈夫的虐待及瑪爾塔的服從,彷彿是一種「調教」的過程,令一個閨女從「父權」的支配過渡至「夫權」的支配。法斯賓達的女性電影往往令當時的女權主義者不滿,因為他不是在讉責壓迫,繼而鼓勵反抗,而是更深一層地闡釋人在社會被調教過程,以及受害者不反抗、甚至擁抱壓迫的心理。

瑪爾塔的朋友向她解釋為婦之道,就是絕對服從丈夫,這樣的生活平靜得多,自己也少吃了鎮靜劑。鎮靜劑就是「為你安」,瑪爾塔在片中服過,她母親更曾服用過量差點沒命,要入精神病院。如此種種,《恐懼恐懼》濫用「為你安」的背景,就倍加清晰。

《恐懼恐懼》的家庭正常得很,丈夫上進,而且對瑪歌的病情非常體諒,他們有兩個孩子,與瑪爾塔丈夫禁止她生育(養貓也不准)相反。瑪爾塔的母親有情感勒索的傾向,瑪歌的家姑及小姨雖有點多事,但還是為瑪歌好。

問題出在哪兒?《恐懼恐懼》一個不時出現的字眼,就是「正常」。瑪歌企圖用藥物以外的方法去排解不安,她在泳池被小姑的丈夫碰見,說她這樣拼老命的游,很不正常。醫生確診瑪歌有精神分裂後,家姑回想起瑪歌對女兒很親熱,是不正常。當初瑪歌要服用為你安,就是要壓抑不安,她本應幸福美滿,但仍出現這種焦慮,就是「不正常」,服藥後情緒更加失控,愈發「不正常」。

參照其他法斯賓達作品,我更覺得他在《恐懼恐懼》並不志在描寫精神病,或者譴責常人對精神病的誤解,而是藉焦慮症及濫用為你安的現象,暴露社會對「正常」的迷戀。如加上本文啟首的「心身症」角度,更可以推測瑪歌的不安,可能就是她心靈正在反抗「正常」。

於《晴天霹靂》飾演R先生的Kurt Raab,在《恐懼恐懼》飾演一位陰森的街坊,不斷嘗試向瑪歌交談,最後他因不堪抑鬱而自殺,為影片留下開放的結局,到底瑪歌會再度病發,還是以此為誡?

看着瑪歌嘗試尋找其他「藥方」,例如運動、購物、飲酒、聽音樂(聽的是法斯賓達很喜愛的Leonard Cohen)去掃走不安,區區主婦的焦慮症,或者就是法斯賓達對消費社會、中產生活的斷症?


Normality Is Colder Than Death

Fassbinder said, "Almost all of my films have a psychosomatic character." Psychosomatic disorders are bodily diseases caused by psychological or mental distress. In Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1973), Ali and Emmi seems to have overcome all obstacles of race, age or peer hostility but Fassbinder gave us a sad twist in the end. Ali is found to be suffering from a chronic ulcer problem. The doctor explains that is quite common in foreign workers like Ali, and is caused by stress.

Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? (1970) is a peculiar early work co-directed with Michael Fengler. It was made mostly with ad-lib dialogue and handheld camera. The titular figure is a very normal office worker but towards the end of the film he beats his wife, son and a neighbour to death with a candle stand. Apparently, the women's chitchat makes him snap but over the course of the film we see Mr. R being increasingly isolated by his apparently normal life.

But the film was essentially Fengler's sole effort, Fassbinder only showed up in only two days of shooting. Although Fassbinder wished to withdraw his credit, but the idea of the intrinsic madness in a family recurred in Fassbinder's later work, most notably Fear of Fear.

Its star Margit Carstensen was a prominent Fassbinder heroine second only to Hanna Schygulla. It's simply because of Schygulla's dominance in the better known Fassbinder films that eclipsed Carstensen's prowess as a seasoned actress. The exception being The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972), with Carstensen and Schygulla co-starring. A not-so-well-known fact is that Schygulla parted ways with Fassbinder after the stressful shooting of Effi Briest (1974). She felt she could never satisfy this director who made her a star. He finally reconciled with Schygulla by asking her to take the title role of The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978).

But prior to Schygulla's departure Carstensen was already a significant member in Fassbinder's troupe, taking up roles that Schygulla obviously couldn't have handled. You can't really sense Carstensen's importance simply by Fear of Fear and The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. But take the made-for-TV film Martha (1973) and two video documents of Fassbinder's theatre productions: Bremen Freedom (1972) which is a play written by Fassbinder, and Nora Helmer (1973), an adaptation of Ibsen's A Doll House. One can easily conclude Carstensen was then Fassbinder's first choice of an oppressed heroine seeking independence.

Martha makes for an interesting comparison to Fear of Fear, not just because of Carstensen's portrayal of a housewife in both films, but in the sense of them being polar opposites in depicting female oppression by the family system. They're so different that they supplement each other.

Martha is a 31-year old virgin. After her father's unexpected death she's wooed and eventually married a very handsome civic engineer with impeccable tastes and a bright future ahead. But this man is a sadist and seeks to dominate Martha in body and soul. Martha is locked away before she knows it. Martha escapes with a former co-worker but she somehow causes an accident that kills her rescuer and handicaps her for life, thus fulfilling her husband's sinister wish to keep her captive.

The plot of Martha is very unusual. The acts of sadism are very reminiscent of exploitation films such as giallo. Martha defies any realist reading. Instead, if we try to go beyond these sickly, absurd or contradictory acts we're very likely to unearth many concealed human weaknesses.

In the spot where her father has just passed away, what really makes her burst into tears is the theft of her handbag. During their honeymoon, Martha's husband deliberately lets her get sunburnt, then forces himself on her. It is their first sexual act in the film and Martha's simultaneous agony and ecstasy is like a sadistic version of a girl's deflowering. Last but not least, Martha sabotages her flight to freedom.

These ridiculous scenes of sadism and masochism seem to represent a conditioning process as the maiden changes hand from her father-dominator to her husband-dominator. At the time of their release, Fassbinder's women movies often attract criticism from feminists. Fassbinder wasn't condemning oppression or encouraging resistance. Instead he tried so hard to reveal the conditioning of our society and explained why victims choose not to resist or even embrace their oppressors.

Martha's friend tells her the secret of a peaceful married life. "Now I absolutely obey my husband," then she added, "that way I've been taking less tranquilizers." The pills in question are Valium. Martha takes it in one early scene, her mother overdoses on it and is subsequently sent to a mental institution. These are essential points of reference to the Valium addiction in Fear of Fear.

Yet Margot has a fully functional family in Fear of Fear. Her husband is going to take an exam that would enhance his prospects and he's supportive of Margot's mental problems. They have two kids, while Martha is forbidden by her husband to have a child, he won't even let her keep a cat. Martha's mother resorts to emotional blackmail but Margot's in-laws are supportive, though a little bit nosy.

So what's wrong? The word "normal" has been recurring throughout Fear of Fear. Margot seeks non-pharmaceutical methods to fight her anxiety. She runs into her brother-in-law at the swimming pool, he then tells her that it isn't normal for her to swim so vigorously. After hearing that Margot is schizophrenic, her mother-in-law recalls Margot's cuddling her daughter and says it isn't normal to do so. Margot is prescribed Valium in the first place to control her anxiety. She's expected to be happy for her perfect family so it isn't normal to be having panic attacks. As she tries to keep this in check with Valium she becomes increasingly unstable, and more "abnormal".

As I go through Fassbinder's preceding works, I become convinced that mental disorder isn't the theme of Fear of Fear, nor the cliches of misunderstanding and discrimination. I believe Fassbinder's aim is to explore the obsession for "normality" by way of panic disorders and Valium addiction. If we add "psychosomatic disorder" to the mix we may also assume Margot's anxiety is indeed her soul's resistance to "normality".

Kurt Raab, who played the murderous Mr. R, is a creepy neighbour in Fear of Fear. He's been desperately reaching out to Margot (who shuns him) and in the end he kills himself, a consequence of depression. This provides an open ending to the film as we're not really sure if this would trigger a relapse or a sign of caution in Margot's psyche.

Margot does know Valium isn't good for her and so she tries various methods of diversion. She exercises, shops, listens to Leonard Cohen records (a Fassbinder favourite). It seems to me a housewife's panic disorder is actually Fassbinder's diagnosis of the bourgeois life of our consumerist society.

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