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Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 151/2-hour adaptation of Alfred Doblin's novel is perhaps the capstone of his career (1981), a work of unprecedented narrative density that revolves around a single character. Franz Biberkopf (Gunter Lamprecht) is a pudgy, affable ex-con, determined to achieve some kind of decency in a world—the Berlin of the Weimar Republic—that will not tolerate it. Fassbinder discards the mannerism of his late films in favor of a noble simplicity, concentrating on a single point of view as it operates across a wide range of experiences and environments. All of the usual distancing effects drop out, leaving the wrenching spectacle of one man grappling with his life in perfect candor.

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