13 episodes and a rather odd 2 hour epilogue. Shown in this country as weekly episodes. Theaters showed two at a time each night. It’s long, there’s no way around that. But it is a fascinating story of Franz Biberkopf, a pretty average guy in Berlin in the early 20’s. The production opens with Franz being released from prison. The first episode is entitled “The Punishment Begins.” Franz is a good man, large of girth and spirit. He loves women with a passion. And women love him, even though he bites. He does have a drinking problem. In those days there wasn’t much else to do. Hard for any man to find a job, not to mention a man of Franz’s limited intellectual abilities. He gets involved with the wrong people time and time again, but he tries. He enjoys his beer and Kummel (caraway and cumin liqueur), sausage and pigs feet. He is a man of strong appetites. When he drinks too much and thinks someone is leaving him, he can get angry. He beat his last girlfriend to death.
Now, this is not the kind of thing I usually like to watch and run in the opposite direction when there’s something like domestic violence. This doesn’t, for a moment, excuse what Franz did, it just tries to explain the kind of man he is. As someone wrote about it, it’s more about the inner workings of the mind of the characters on the stage at the time, in the area of Berlin known as Alexanderplatz. There were thousands of people out of work and finding a good job and building a life was not easy. It’s fascinating the way Franz’s life revolves about some of the other inhabitants of Alexanderplatz. Reinhold, the thug stutterer who Franz continued to believe in, no matter what he did to him, whatever trouble he caused. Meize his young girlfriend who stuck by him when he had lost an arm and made work an even more remote possibility. Eva who loved him well and supported him whenever she could, even though he didn’t love her. Frau Bast, his landlady who always took a curious interest in Franz’s affairs.

Based on the novel by Alfred Doblin, and directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, it is a unique look into what it takes to survive.