Gerhard (Alexander Allerson) and Ariane Christ's (Margit Carenstensen) marriage is founded on a house of cards. Their neglected crippled daughter Angela (Andrea Schober) knows all and decides to bring it all on the table when she brings both of her parents and their lovers together at the family mansion. Ariane has been cheating on her husband with his assistant Kolbe (Ulli Lommel) and Gerhard has been cheating on his wife with Irene, a french woman (Anna Karina). The four snobby individuals are waited on hand and foot by Kast (Brigitte Mira) and her son Gabriel (Volker Spengler). Angela's only confidant is her mute nanny Traunitz (Macha Meril). Tempers flare and the situation in the house boils to the point of no return. Angela suggest that they all play her favorite game "Chinese roulette". Who will win this game of wills and what kind of skeletons and lies will be exposed?
Fassbinder's essay on marriages of convenience, too much wealth and the lack of love and compassion is a brilliant watch and one of his best. I really enjoyed the symbolism of mirrors and the complex blocking and framing of the scenes. The cinematography and unique director style ensures that there is never a dull moment. Fassbinder's usual cast of regulars along with Anna Karina make for an interesting cast. Ulli Lommel is a real stand out as the emasculated Kolbe who's plans of a weekend long romantic romp with Ariane are crushed. Volker Spengler is a pip in his role as Gabriel the hired help. A nosy eavesdropping servant who thinks he knows all but really doesn't. He bores Gerhard and company with his byzantine writings in hope of getting him to land a publisher. The real star is Andrea Schober who plays the role of Angela, the neglected child who plots revenge on her parents by exposing their shame of a marriage.
When the truth is revealed, no one wants to admit that they live in a world built upon lies and deceit. Ms. Kast's anger towards Angela is nothing more than a lashing out towards the bourgeois Christs and the realization that her cushy job will end soon. Gerhard tells his wife that he really loves her but his attempts and a reconciliation are hollow at best. Ariane blames her extramarital affairs on her daughter and wishes that she was dead because she nothing more than a cripple. In the end, there are no winners in the game. Everyone is flawed beyond the point of any kind of salvation. They have been corrupted by either their own excesses or by those around them.
I really enjoyed this movie. The film starts off slow but the pay off is well worth waiting for. I have to highly recommend this movie. A perfect introduction to the films of Fassbinder.