The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (German: Die Bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant) is a 1972 German film directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, based on his own play. This film has an all female cast and is primarily set in a wardrobe at the home of the protagonist, Petra von Kant. It follows the changing dynamics in her relationships with some of the other women. It is a witty tragedy of lovesickness and one of Fassbinder’s most powerful plays and films.


Petra von Kant is a famous fashion designer whose marriages have ended in death and divorce. The first was a great love, the second began as that and ended in disgust. Petra lives with her assistant and reveals her sadistic side to her, making a some kind of codependent relationships. Now, through a friend, Petra meets Karin, a desirable, ruthless 23-year-old recently separated from her husband. Petra persuades Karin to become a model and very quickly falls madly in love. But Petra's obsessive love gets eventually rejected. Karin leaves Petra. Petra eats her own heart out. Turning over a new leaf, she talks to her assistant in the tender accents of love. But the assistant, who has satisfied her personal masochistic desire by submitting to Petra, leaves her, too. Petra is left alone to give way to tears and despair.

Opera adaptation

The text of the play, in its English translation by Denis Calandra, was employed by Gerald Barry as the libretto for his five-act opera, commissioned by RTE and English National Opera and premiered in Dublin and London in 2005. The opera is also available on CD featuring the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra [1]

The opera deals with her obsession, her rejection by Karin, and her disintegration.

See also

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