From Bergman to Kieslowski, many great directors dabbled in TV in the second half of the 20th century, but no legendary auteur left a more indelible mark on the medium than Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The New German Cinema exponent produced much of his most celebrated work for television, including films like “World on a Wire,” “Martha,” and “I Only Want You to Love Me,” and miniseries like the legendary “Berlin Alexanderplatz.” “Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day,” however, sits unsung amidst Fassbinder’s televisual oeuvre. That’s a shame, as it’s a sweeping, exuberant miniseries that was released in five installments on Germany’s public Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) network between October 1972 and November 1973.
Although the show’s scope eventually expands to encompass an entire array of characters, in the beginning it focuses on Jochen Epp (Gottfried John), a toolmaker who falls in love with office advertiser Marion Andreas (Hanna Schygulla) while struggling to improve his factory’s working conditions. Commissioned by WDR as part of an effort to educate the German public by producing and airing “worker films,” “Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day” roughly maps to a traditional family drama, but forgoes the genre’s typical bourgeois slant in order to explicitly reckon with the living conditions of the country’s working class.