The Marriage of Maria Braun

"Extraordinary"

The Marriage of Maria Braun Review


Quite a marriage our Maria Braun has... Unquestionably Fassbinder's masterpiece, this seminal 1979 work looks at the German post-War experience from a feminist view. After all, when the economy's in the toilet, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do in order to survive.

Hanna Schygulla plays Maria, who marries her beau Hermann (Klaus Löwitsch) toward the end of WWII, just as he's being shipped off to fight for the Nazis. When Hermann disappears, presumed dead, Maria soberly gives up her search for him in favor of taking a job as a prostitute at a dancehall/brothel for American soldiers stationed there. Hermann's sudden return finds her in bed with a large, black G.I., and Maria ends up killing the G.I. in a scuffle.

Hermann's love for his wife is so intense and enduring, he takes the rap and lands in prison. Maria then takes up with a German businessman, rising up the corporate ladder thanks to her sharp wits and her more womanly assets. Before long, she has it all. Her boss/boyfriend abruptly dies. Hermann is released from jail. They live high on the hog for a short while, and then, in archetypal Fassbinder fashion, everyone snuffs it. The end.

For once, Fassbinder paints his heroine not as a victim of her surroundings but as a go-getter trying to work with what she's got -- and succeeding. The victims in Fassbinder's tales like Katzelmacher and The Merchant of Four Seasons are helpless -- or apathetic -- in changing their situation. They slip down down down and then they're dead.

And while Maria's tale is so full of hope, it's also full of sorrow. What ends will a woman go to just to get a few more nylon stockings? Maria is painted with zero remorse for her actions -- whether she's cheating on her husband or freely admitting that she's using some guy as meat. She is who she is, a liberated woman in a newly-liberated country. We alternately feel impressed and sad for her -- and Schygulla's masterful, emotionally barren performance makes the film all the more powerful.

Made only three years before Fassbinder committed suicide, it's very strange that his masterwork would come at the end of his career. Most filmmakers start out strong then fade away. Fassbinder was just getting better and better, and presumably his own angst caught up with him just as he was coming to terms with how best to get that across on the big screen. It's certainly clear in Maria Braun -- an eye-popping story and a very well-made film beside that. But his death is certainly unsurprising: As all of Fassbinder's films remind us, no one gets out of here alive.

Aka Die Ehe der Maria Braun.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 120 mins

In Theaters: Friday 23rd March 1979

Distributed by: Criterion Collection

Production compaines: Albatros Filmproduktion, Fengler Films, Filmverlag der Autoren, Tango Film, Trio Films, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 13 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer:

Starring: as Maria Braun, as Hermann Braun, as Karl Oswald, George Eagles as Bill, as Mother, as Betti Klenze, as Willi Klenze, as Senkenberg, Günter Lamprecht as Hans Wetzel, as Frau Ehmke, Michael Ballhaus as Counsel

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