40 years ago: RWF‘s EIGHT HOURS ARE NOT A DAY
Stories about workers determined to use their own initiative
On October 29, 1972, the first part of Fassbinder’s five-part family series flickered across West German TV screens. Over the next months, the public broadcaster ARD showed all five episodes, in each case on a Saturday evening in the prime-time slot: I. Jochen and Marion, (October 29, 1972), II. Grandma and Gregor (December 17, 1972), III. Franz and Ernst (January 2, 1973), IV. Harald and Monika (February 18, 1973), and V. Irmgard and Rolf (March 18, 1973). Ratings during this time ranged between 45 and 60%, figures comparable with those for the broadcaster’s top-rating crime series TATORT.
Eight Hours is made up of stories from the working lives of a group of toolmakers. The main character is the resourceful and committed Jochen (Gottfried John), whose workmates include Manfred (Wolfgang Zerlett), Jürgen (Hans Hirschmüller), Rolf (Rudolf Waldemar Brem) and assistant foreman Franz (Wolfgang Schenck). In the course of the series, this group is arbitrarily denied a promised performance bonus. Following the death of foreman Meister Kretzschmer (Victor Curland) Franz applies to take over his position but the firm’s management appoints the outsider Ernst (Peter Gauhe). Jochen and Marion (Hanna Schygulla), who works for a newspaper, want to marry. Harald (Kurt Raab) and Monika (Renate Roland) are already married and have a daughter, Sylvia (Andrea Schober), but Monika wants a divorce. When the series begins, Grandma Krüger (Luise Ullrich) is living with her son-in-law but then moves in with her boyfriend, the widowed pensioner Gregor Mack (Werner Finck). Together they set up a kindergarten. Fräulein Erlkönig (Irm Hermann) and her boyfriend Rolf move in with Jochen und Marion.
In EIGHT HOURS ARE NOT A DAY Fassbinder melded the popular genre of the middle-class family series with the themes and milieu of the so-called worker film. He himself said of the series he made for WDR: “What distinguishes Jochen und Marion and Grandma and Gregor and a few of the others from what people imagine workers to be like and from the image sold on TV and elsewhere is the fact that these characters have still not been beaten down.” (“Ein paar unordentliche Gedanken zu Jochen und Marion und …,” in: Fernsehspiele Westdeutscher Rundfunk, July-December 1972)
Filming took place over 105 days from April till August 1972, with production costs totaling 1,375,000 DM. The series was shot in, among other places, Wuppertal, although it was set in Mönchengladbach and Cologne. Scripts were written for a total of eight episodes, but after the fifth it was decided not to continue filming. The head of WDR’s television play department, Günther Rohrbach, claimed at the time that the reason for this decision was that the series was not realistic enough.
In 1973, the series producer Peter Märthesheimer was awarded West German television’s Grimme Prize for his concept for the series.
All the episodes of EIGHT HOURS ARE NOT A DAY were shown for the final time in 1995 by the broadcaster 3sat to mark Rainer Werner Fassbinder‘s fiftieth birthday
The Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation is now planning a complete restoration of the 470-minute, five-part series to be completed in 2015 in order to be able to present it once again to the viewing public.
Photo left: © RWFF
Photo right: Gottfried John as Jochen and Wolfgang Zerlett as Manfred in EIGHT HOURS ARE NOT A DAY, 1972 © WDR / RWFF