Fassbinder introduces Petra von Kant (Margit Carstensen) in bed, stripped of her wigs and her extravagant clothes. He then painstakingly builds the character up in layers to show us exactly who this horrible woman is before just as painfully stripping away those layers as part of her emotional downfall. This film is a masterclass in shot composition and blocking, each shot as carefully composed as the image of Midas and Bacchus in Petra’s bedroom and each revealing hidden emotional truths as Michael Ballhaus’s camera moves, focuses, and frames its subjects. The implication, told through small character beats and shot composition, that Marlene (Irm Hermann) was once the Petra to Petra’s Karin is quietly devastating: a vision of Petra’s future always present and always silent.