Ian Buruma assesses Fassbinder’s eccentric-but-convincing film of Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz:
When Fassbinder made his fifteen-hour-long film of Berlin Alexanderplatz for television in 1980, Döblin’s city was mostly gone, destroyed by Allied bombs, Soviet artillery, and East German wrecking balls. And what little was left, in the east, was hidden behind the Berlin Wall, and thus out of bounds for Fassbinder and his crew. A documentary approach was clearly impossible. And even if it had been possible to reconstruct the Alexanderplatz, Fassbinder felt that you could tell how it really would look out on the streets better from the kinds of refuges people created for themselves, what kinds of bars they went to, how they lived in their apartments, and so on. So he recreated the city as a kind of theater set, confined to a few interiors–Biberkopf’s room, his local bar, Reinhold’s apartment, an underground railway station, and a few streets — built in a Munich movie studio.