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The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)

Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, Romance | 5 October 1972 (West Germany)
An arrogant fashion designer falls in love with an icy beauty who wants to be a model.


Rainer Werner Fassbinder (play), Rainer Werner Fassbinder (screenplay)
3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Margit Carstensen ... Petra von Kant (as Margit Cartensen)
Hanna Schygulla ... Karin Thimm
Katrin Schaake ... Sidonie von Grasenabb
Eva Mattes ... Gabriele von Kant
Gisela Fackeldey Gisela Fackeldey ... Valerie von Kant
Irm Hermann ... Marlene


Petra von Kant is a successful fashion designer -- arrogant, caustic, and self-satisfied. She mistreats Marlene (her secretary, maid, and co-designer). Enter Karin, a 23-year-old beauty who wants to be a model. Petra falls in love with Karin and invites her to move in. The rest of the film deals with the emotions of this affair and its aftermath. Fassbinder tells his story in a series of 5 or 6 long scenes with extended uses of a single camera shot and deep focus. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Sex is the ultimate weapon.


Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »



West Germany



Release Date:

5 October 1972 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant See more »


Box Office


DEM325,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$11,623, 16 February 2003

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Rainer Werner Fassbinder wrote the entire screenplay for the film by hand during a single 12-hour flight from Berlin to Los Angeles. See more »


Petra von Kant: It's easy to pity, Sidonie, but so much harder to understand. If you understand someone, don't pity them, change them. Only pity what you cant understand.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Gewidmet dem, der hier Marlene wurde. (Dedicated to the one who became Marlene here) See more »


References The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1932) See more »


In My Room
Written by Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance
Performed by The Walker Brothers
See more »

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User Reviews

Lipstick Lesbians - a love story {Rainer Werner Fassbinder}
2 August 2011 | by Stanley-BeckerSee all my reviews

This movie is reputedly an autobiographical fictionalization of Fassbinder's own "menage" between himself, his lover, and his secretary. While the homosexuality is retained the gender is transformed to female.

Petra von Kant, is, like Fassbinder a product of upper middle class circumstances. She is artistic and ambitious. She is a rising force in the German Fashion "couture" and the movie opens with a bibulous Petra waking up late, and behaving in a superior and demanding manner towards her submissive and obedient secretary/design assistant/maid, the long suffering Marlene. Petra's selfish and narcissistic character is thus immediately established. The viewer is left in no doubt concerning her sybaritic, pampered demanding nature.

The next scene features a visit from her friend the Baroness Sidonie, whom she hasn't seen in years. The talk is focused on Petra,s failed marriage and Sidonie's curiosity about the underlying reasons for its failure. Petra claims that her husband resented her success and could not chauvinistically come to terms with her financial dominance. At no time does she refer to sexual orientation and gender preference as factors.

Enter the Baroness's young and beautiful friend Karin. Immediately Petra becomes interested and seductively attracted towards her. In classic bourgeois style, she flatters and tempts the impoverished Karin with her wealth and connections {"I'll make you my model"}. Karin, a heterosexual embraces bisexuality and embarks on an affair with Petra.In the background throughout the entire movie Poussin's "Midas and Bacchus" reproduced as a backdrop against an entire wall looms symbolically over the unfolding drama.

We are now moved on in time. Petra is now hopelessly infatuated with Karin, who, although she is affectionate towards Petra, her heterosexuality precludes her reciprocating. What Petra desires is a grand passion, which,like a moth being drawn to a flame is then consumed by it. The requited love that Petra insists upon, remains unsatisfied. The situation comes to a head when Karin's husband returns and Karin walks out of her relationship with Petra and rejoins him.

We now have the core of this tale as Petra fragments in agonistic convulsion. A fantastic sequence of humiliation and degradation, emotionally convincing, is magnificently pulled off by Margarit Carstensen who plays Petra and also by Fassbinder's tight direction. The scene takes place on a shaggy long piled white carpet,{fashionable in the 70's} a bare room and the backdrop painting. An utterly masterful and absorbing display of emotion at the edge. Phew, what an affective scene, leaving the viewer quite exhausted. After the catharsis of all the "descent into hell", Petra recovers, seemingly cured of the "mad love", and supposedly, through the pain and suffering, she now offers her long suffering slave cum assistant, a new relationship - her freedom from servitude, and from now on a partnership of equality. This political resolution was taken by this particular viewer {that is, myself} with a pinch of salt, as I find it highly optimistic on Fassbinder's part, that Petra would so easily embrace a new persona

There is very little action in this movie but the authenticity is riveting. Sure, it's an Art Movie, stagey, with the dialogue telling most of the story, but it's a great movie nevertheless.

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