The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)

Been a while since I last looked at Fassbinder, and since I’m still working on the 1001 Movies list (trying to get more through ones I haven’t seen rather than ones I have like I did last month), this was the one to go for tonight (as I don’t have Fear Eats the Soul, the only RWF film on the list I otherwise haven’t seen). As with most of the other Fassbinders I’ve seen, this is slow stuff. It’s really good stuff, too, it should be said, I can totally understand why it was a hit for Fassbinder back in its time. But oh it’s slow. I complained about this slowness when reviewing Mother Küsters a while back, and I said of that film it was mainly the lead female role that kept me interested; to some extent—although other cast members do good work here too—that’s also true of this film, with Hanna Schygulla as the titular Maria, married to Hermann in the middle of a bombing raid (the period is the immediate post-WW2 moment into the mid-50s or so), with her husband heading off to war immediately thereafter and apparently dying in said conflict. What follows is reconstruction, not just of the country but of Maria Braun as well, rising from a “hostess” at a bar for the American occupiers to the mistress of a returned French-German financier, a strong and fairly controlling woman rich in all the material goods she once had to fight for but, shall we say, somewhat poorer in spirit. The result is melodrama which struck me as somehow being quite extreme but also not underlining its extremity in the way it could’ve done. And it is good, I can see it justifying its place on the 1001 Movies list; the production seems to have been absolutely nightmarish (thanks to money problems, Fassbinder’s drug consumption, and the producer trying to screw him over the rights to the finished film) but ultimately it worked out. But DAMN it’s slow. And two hours of that slowness ultimately meant I wound up not really liking it as much as I wanted to.

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