37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on 22 August 2006
On learning of the death of her husband at the close of World War II, the young and brilliant Maria Braun pulls herself together and begins an upward climb in the economically-booming capitalist world of post-war Germany. Devastatingly sexy and formidably intelligent, she stops at nothing in her quests for power and wealth. Yet it always remains difficult for the audience to cast judgement on her: this is no crudely-drawn femme fatale caricature, but rather a superbly-acted and highly believable resourceful woman who has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
While the film is clearly a political allegory, it is by no means a simple condemnation of the builders of the new Germany. Fassbinder is much too subtle for that kind of didacticism. Although the shock ending of the film does offer a definite moral for the audience, the film offers a tentative but probing exploration of the post-war mentality. It is particularly evocative in its presentation of the gender roles that were developing at that time. All of this means that, as the credits scroll up, we are asked to re-examine our own society and indeed ourselves. One can imagine that this self-examination process would have been especially relevant to Fassbinder's contemporary audience, but even today and outside Germany, this well-crafted and moving film has much to offer.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2005
The Marriage of Maria Braun was the first part of Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy, a collective of films that analysed the fall-out of the Second World War on the German subconscious. As a series of films, they are as important, both culturally and cinematically, as the Three Colours Trilogy and von Trier's Goldenheart cycle, proving that contemporary cinema is still capable of presenting a valid and emotionally engaging story with something deeper and more important developing on a subtetxtual level. As with the films aforementioned, Fassbinder's series covers a number of concerns - social & political - through the eyes of three disparate women. Here, we have Maria, who marries as the war is still raging and finds her self alienated & hopeless as her new husband is shipped off to fight for his country.
Fassbinder uses the situation to explore ideas of faith, loyalty and betrayal, by incorporating a sub-plot in which Maria, who believes her husband has been killed during battle, begins a passionate relationship with one of the American G.I.s who hangs out at the bar where she works. The notions that arise from this set up are the same notions and themes that will be fleshed out in the BRD films that would follow, with the external similarities of plot and location being found in the next film Lola, whilst the internal angst and ideas of loneliness and despair can be found in the final film, Veronika Voss. This film is a lot less visual than the two films that follow, though there is certainly a more expressive approach to editing, composition & lighting used by cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, similar to the work he did on the director's earlier film, the bitter social satire, Chinese Roulette.
From this, we see an attempt by Fassbinder to distance the audience from the action in the same way he uses exaggerated framing to (visually) distance the characters from one another... a device that is most evident in the scene in which Maria's husband, once believed to be dead, finally arrives home. The set up & the bold, almost, theatrical way in which Fassbinder develops the story makes for great, affecting drama, with the lead actors, in particular Hanna Schygulla, Klaus Löwitsch and Ivan Desny giving strong and believable performances that seem to elevate the film above the realms of something that could have very easily resembled a TV movie of the week. Fassbinder, as always, has a strong command over the proceedings, keeping the story moving at a brisk pace, though still allowing enough room for the film to linger over a moment of poetic transcendence or, true to his theatrical roots, a moment of improvisation from his actors.
The Marriage of Maria Braun is, without question, the highpoint of Fassbinder's intelligent and imaginative trilogy and remains one of my all time favourite films. If you are new to Fassbinder's cinema I would perhaps recommend starting with one of his earlier, less complex films, such as The Merchant of Four Seasons, Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? or ALI: Fear Eats the Soul, which demonstrate the filmmaker's grasp over ideas of simple narrative, characterisation and mise-en-scene without the occasionally distracting notions of politics and social history that we find in these films. If, after those pictures, you still feel compelled to experience the films of Fassbinder, then start here and move through the BRD Trilogy, onto Despair, The Year of 13 Moons, Effi Briest and Querelle.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Seeing this film again after several years, I am struck by how much less I like it than I used to. I can't help feeling that the manner of the central character is often cruel and self-regarding in a way that is meant to be fascinating but is actually quite offputting - why does she have to get involved with Oswald at all if it is just to be unkind to him and constantly play on her superiority as the one who is desired more? If she ends up in despair, you can't help feeling that she largely has herself to blame. And the murder of the GI near the beginning seems so unnecessary (and she never seems to give him another thought) - why did she have to hit him over the head with a bottle when he wasn't even posing any real threat to her husband? Apart from the fact it sets up the plot in the way that is needed, with her husband stepping in to serve her sentence for her, you just feel it is too contrived, and again, cruel. As is her whole approach to Oswald from the moment she sets her sights on him on the train. I think I used to be more taken with the mystery of the character and her allure, but now I just feel less inclined to accept her desire to make money at all costs so she can repay her husband's sacrifice. And the glamour of the posture is, as I say, quite grating. It would work if we were meant to be critical, but the perspective seems to suggest we should admire her ability to use her charm and play it so cool. It's essentially the same problem I find with Fassbinder's gangster characters or indeed those of most other directors - Godard's A Bout de souffle being a prime example; what is the allure of such figures? I feel Fassbinder was much better when dealing with gay characters, as this brought out the warmth of a desire he felt, whatever the attendant cruelties, or when Brigitte Mira was involved! The Marriage of Maria Braun does give a good picture of post-war Germany, and the visuals and music do exert a certain hold, but in the end it is as cold as ice, kindness is rarely present except in the two unfortunate lovers of Maria, and the desire it shows has a somewhat join-up-the-dots feel, subservient as it is to the machinations of power and getting ahead in the business world.
An allegory for the German catastrophe as emotions are cast to oneside and a will to power embarked upon until too late, the selling of the soul along with the body leaves an emotional wreck as materialism fills up the cracks in between relationships.
Begins with a bizarre war time marriage, the ones that people made in haste because they were not expected to last beyond the week, Maria becomes obsessive and compulsive about her marital status. Seeking love somewhere over the rainbow she waits with Herman as if they had been soul twins for all of their lives.
Then we see the family struggling through the war as the men disappear and the women "make do." Bartering everything they have it marks the contrast from economic conditions after the Adenauer miracle in the 1950's. However the war leaves a scar on memory and belief.
Maria is a multi dimensional character, callous, cruel, cold, unemotional, desperate to climb whilst being self absorbed and indifferent she cleaves to her dream. Meanwhile Herman, the man from the dead, becomes the central character. As time moves forward everyone inhabits a different economic zone from the past and adapts to the contours with remarkable efficiency but with a heaving heart and soul burdened with baggage.
Maria was never a Nazi, but she lived within the era and made do after the war, like many beautiful women, she wanted to survive. Bomb craters, the fragments of the war blowing around them, the film depicts how Germany picked itself up and got on with it, on the outside, whilst raging storms blasted the person within. Not so much concerned with war guilt but with relationships, families, the political world, the personal duplicities, the film abounds with people playing roles which lead to nowhere. Wealth offers little comfort to the soul is what it appears to be saying.
Beautifully acted, it echoes Gone with the Wind in places but then has a particular Teutonic twist upon the events. Has an interesting psychological tension throughout which never plays its hand until the final moments.
on 26 March 2015
Hanna SCHYGULLA – the best actress Germany has produced in decades – completely dominates this brilliant movie. She fully symbolizes the moral and political collapse of post-Second World War West Germany; literally matching the collapse that was implicit before.
Survival by the most adept, enterprising and intelligent is the order‑of‑the‑day – that this future comes from not facing the past explains the former Wirtschaftswunder.
As changeable and capricious as women are, the West Germany shown here moves from Nazi fanaticism to democratic capitalism with false ease. A desire for independence coupled with a dependent need to be thought desirable; like a determined master‑of‑disguise, West Germany became a desirable woman who made the men (the rest of the world) envious.
on 6 August 2013
it's a sensational movie! fassbinder's hand of a genius is clearly visible all the way through. his subtlety in story telling is unique! all the requisites, the cast, the costumes, the light etc. it's all so well done and so spot on.
as other reviews detailed point out, it is about post war and all the related issues etc, but there is soooooo much more too it!! one can get so much out of this film!
buy it, watch it! its worth it!
all acting is brilliant, but foremost hanna schygulla, she carries the character of maria braun through with precision and transparency of unseen quality.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 12 August 2010
If you are new to the Post-war world of Ggerman cinema this is probably the film to start with. It is beautifully shot and very interesting telling the story of life in Germany after the war from a woman's point of view. They are less weii known than Italian and French films of the same era but are fascinating and very worthwhile.
A Fassbinder film, this time from 1979. Set during the last days of World War Two, Maria has been waiting in vain for the return of her husband, who she was only with for one night, before he left to go to the war. She believes him to be missing, or dead, and tries her best to survive, with the terrible shortages, and the eventual arrival of the American occupation forces.
Notable for the lead actress, the incredibly sexy and captivating Hanna Schygulla, at the peak of her career.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2001
This film is about a young widow from post second world war Germany. We learn of her way from poverty to succes, and what this does to her and the people surrounding her.
In my opinioin this is Fassbinder's best film; a very good one, that is. If you, like me, are not very interested in dramas of post-war poverty or the fate of widows, the story may seem quite boring. Nevertheless, Fassbinder manages to use this as a backdrop to portray some very interesting people and their way of managing in hard times. And when the times are not so bad, rather good actually, there is a very interesting turn and we are witnesses to an appalling transformation of the characters. Fassbinder manages to use his language of pictures to beautifully portray what goes on in each of the protagonists minds. Anyway, the film can also be seen as a well-told story with, despite of its post-war setting, a very aesthetic way of directing. Hanna Schygulla should also be credited for a very good performance.
on 12 January 2013
Thoroughly enjoyed this film. I would recommend this film to my friends who are serious about films of this nature.