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Love Is Colder Than Death (1969)

Liebe ist kälter als der Tod (original title)
Not Rated | | Comedy, Crime | 16 January 1970 (West Germany)
Unusual gangster story, in which a small-time pimp Franz, who is torn between his mistress and Bruno the gangster sent after him by the syndicate that he has refused to join. Things are ... See full summary »

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2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ulli Lommel ... Bruno
Hanna Schygulla ... Johanna
Katrin Schaake ... Dame im Zug
Liz Söllner Liz Söllner ... Zeitungsverkäuferin
Gisela Otto Gisela Otto ... Prostituierte
Ursula Strätz Ursula Strätz ... Prostituierte
Monika Nüchtern Monika Nüchtern ... Kellnerin beim Türken (as Monika Stadler)
Hans Hirschmüller ... Peter
Les Olvides Les Olvides ... Georges
Peer Raben Peer Raben ... Jürgen (also Waffenhändler (voice)) (as Wil Rabenbauer)
Howard Gaines Howard Gaines ... Raoul
Peter Moland Peter Moland ... Leiter des Syndikatsverhörs
Kurt Raab ... Aufsichtsperson im Kaufhaus
Peter Berling ... Schuster / Illegaler Waffenhändler
Anastassios Karalas Anastassios Karalas ... Türke


Unusual gangster story, in which a small-time pimp Franz, who is torn between his mistress and Bruno the gangster sent after him by the syndicate that he has refused to join. Things are turned on their head when Franz and Bruno become friends, to the point that they even share Franz's girlfriend Joanna. But Joanna soon becomes bored of Bruno. Written by L.H. Wong <as9401k56@ntuvax.ntu.ac.sg>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Eine knallharte Geschichte vom Leben, vom Lieben und vom Sterben


Comedy | Crime


Not Rated | See all certifications »



West Germany


German | English

Release Date:

16 January 1970 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

Love Is Colder Than Death See more »


Box Office


DEM 95,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Antiteater-X-Film See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Rainer Werner Fassbinder performs a number of different roles on this film: He was director, writer, actor and editor. See more »


Bruno: I'm looking for a girl named Johanna.
Prostituierte: [walking out of the dark] Why Johanna? Why not me?
Bruno: Because I'm trying to find her.
Prostituierte: Johanna? Johanna-Johanna?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Für Claude Chabrol, Éric Rohmer, Jean-Marie Straub, Linio und Cuncho See more »


Edited from The Bridegroom, the Comedienne and the Pimp (1968) See more »


Der Rosenkavalier
By Richard Strauss
See more »

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User Reviews

Fassbinder's stark debut examines nihilist criminals
30 June 2009 | by timmy_501See all my reviews

R.W. Fassbinder's debut feature Love is Colder Than Death was shot on a very limited budget and it shows. For the most part Fassbinder seems to have made the lack of budget work for him rather than against him however. Faced with a lack of funds, Fassbinder apparently decided to make this film as austere as possible. The film is shot in black and white but it uses less blacks and greys than any other film I can think of; the use of white (especially in backgrounds) adds to the film's stark tone as does the lack of camera movement. I've never seen a film in the crime genre that utilizes long takes and the stationary camera the way this one does.

In general I don't like crime movies that focus solely on the criminals but I found this one fascinating because these people didn't seem to be acting out of the usual petty motivations; rather, each of the three main characters seemed to be harboring a hatred for mankind. This is expressed in the contempt they show when they steal some trivial items in a store; rather than quietly pocket these things they choose to go to elaborate means to distract the shopkeepers and steal things right in front of them. It's not enough to take something from someone else: they also have to prove their superiority while making their victim into a fool. I found their misanthropy horrifyingly fascinating and that alone sets this film apart from other, similar films.

This film has been compared to the work of Jean Luc Godard and with good reason: these characters reminded me of the ones in films like Breathless and Pierrot Le Fou. Still, the characters in Love is Colder than Death are fundamentally different from the ones in those films because Godard's characters come across as lazy and selfish people who can't fit in while Fassbinder's characters come across as more ideologically motivated nihilist misanthropes.

The film's Spartan aesthetic is used to accentuate the characters' cynical attitudes in at least a couple of ways. The characters are often seen in front of structures so white they resemble the void: thus the exterior of the places they inhabit reflects the emptiness felt by these people who have no purpose or emotion. Another nice touch is the lack of visual representation of the gunshot wounds. At first it seemed like this lack could be entirely explained by budgetary concerns but on further reflection that's just silly: Fassbinder didn't have to show the bodies after they were shot but he usually did because he had a purpose in doing so. The gunshots seem to have had no effect because the shooters have no empathy for their victims, they care so little about them that the wounds don't even register with them.

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