Tuesday, November 23, 2021

2021 Blind Spot Series: The Marriage of Maria Braun


Directed and co-edited by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and screenplay by Peter Marthesheimer and Pea Frohlich with additional dialogue and story by Fassbinder, Die ehe der Maria Braun (The Marriage of Maria Braun) is the story of a woman whose marriage to a soldier during the final days of World War II leaves her lost as she tries to reinvent herself following the post-war years while being devoted to the man she is married to. The first film in a trilogy of films set during the post-war years of West Germany and how it would affect the life of a woman in her new surroundings. Starring Hanna Schygulla, Klaus Lowitsch, Ivan Desny, and Gisela Uhlen. Die ehe der Maria Braun is a majestic yet evocative film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Set from the final days of World War II to the early 1950s, the film follows the journeys and evolution of a woman who would marry a soldier in those final days only for him to disappear where she would take part in other ventures during his disappearance as a way to be part of this new economic miracle in postwar Germany. The film is an exploration of a woman in the course of her life from her wedding day to the culmination of everything she has worked for while maintaining her loyalty to her husband. The film’s screenplay that features additional work from Kurt Raab as it begins in 1943 Berlin during a battle where the titular character (Hanna Schygulla) and Hermann Braun (Klaus Lowitsch) are getting married while all of this chaos happens around them as he would leave the next day and then disappear as Germany would lose the war. During the course of the next eight years, Maria would do things to survive following news that claimed that Hermann has died where she engages in a brief romance with an African-American soldier in Bill (George Byrd) and then meet a wealthy industrialist in Karl Oswald (Ivan Desny) whom she would become his personal assistant.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s direction definitely has an air of style in terms of the way he moves his camera for a shot or in a location as well as play into this world of an old Germany during the final days of the war and the economic re-birth it would be a part of after the war. Shot largely on location in Coburg in then-West Germany and parts of West Berlin, Fassbinder plays into this period of World War II where it begins with Maria and Hermann being married while air raids are happening as it sets the chaotic tone of what is to come from the film. While there are some wide and medium shots to get a scope of the locations and places that Maria and other characters go to, there is a sense of style in the way Fassbinder would shoot a scene where he would use dolly-tracking shots to move the camera from one area and into another for a single take as it play into some of the drama.

There are some close-ups in the way Fassbinder reacts not just towards a character but also an object whether it’s a carton of cigarettes or an appliance as it would play into something that would foreshadow a lot of what it to come. Sex is a major proponent of the film in how Maria would use her sex appeal to get what she wants but it also plays from a woman that wanted to be love only to then use sex to get what she wants. The direction also play into her evolution where Fassbinder would slowly play into the changing times though not revealing when these events happen as it’s more about this woman being part of the times and finding herself although it would come at some major costs of her own sense of morals. Even towards the end as she becomes successful on her own yet there is still the matter of Hermann whom she is still married to as it play into his own existence and role in their marriage. Overall, Fassbinder crafts a captivating and mesmerizing film about a married woman trying to find her identity during the postwar years of Germany.

Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus does amazing work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward for many of the daytime exterior scenes along with some stylish lighting for a few of the interior scenes at night. Editors Rainer Werner Fassbinder (in his Franz Walsch pseudonym) and Juliane Lorenz do excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward as it allow shots to linger for a bit as well as cutting to play into some of the dramatic moments. Production designer Norbert Scherer, with set decorators Arno Mathes, Hans-Peter Sandmeir, and Andreas Wilms, does fantastic work with the look of the home where Maria lived with her mother as well as the home of Oswald and the house that Maria would buy late in the film. Costume designer Barbara Baum does brilliant work with the costumes in the dresses that Maria wore as it play into her evolving style from being a woman who wore ragged dresses to high fashion towards the end.

The makeup work of Anni Nobauer is terrific as it play to the look of the characters including Maria early in the film during her attempt to get a job. The sound work of Jim Willis and Milan Bor is superb for the natural approach to sound including some of the sparse moments as well as how music is presented. The film’s music by Peer Raben is wonderful for its low-key piano-based music as it help play into the drama along with some orchestral pieces while the soundtrack feature a lot of the big band and swing music of the times as well as some classical pieces.

The film’s marvelous ensemble cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Rainer Werner Fassbinder as black markets dealer, Peter Berling as a club owner for American GIs to attend to, Hannes Kaetner as the justice of the peace in the film’s opening scene, Kristine de Loup as the notary in the opening scene, Gunther Kaufmann as a drunken American soldier on a train, Volker Spengler as a train conductor, Bruce Low as an American prosecutor in a trial that involved Maria, Karl-Heinz von Hassel as the German prosecutor, Sonja Neudorfer as a Red Cross nurse, Lilo Pempeit as Maria’s secretary in the third act, Isolde Barth as a woman who accompanies Senkenberg late in the film over business matters, Claus Holm as a doctor that Maria frequently visits, Anton Schiersner as Maria’s grandfather who lives at the apartment with her mother, and Gunter Lamprecht as Hans Wetzel whom Maria’s mother begins to have a relationship with in the film’s second half. George Byrd is superb as an African-American GI named Bill whom Maria would have an affair with early in the film until a major revelation would change everything while Hark Bohm is terrific as Oswald’s bookkeeper Senkenberg as someone who isn’t entirely fond of Maria but realizes her worth in terms of influence as well as admire her ambition.

Gottfried John and Elisabeth Trissenaar are fantastic in their respective roles as longtime friends in Willi and Betti Klenze as a married couple who joins Maria’s ascent with the latter being someone who wants more while the former is someone who just wants simple things as he was also close to Hermann. Gisela Uhlen is excellent as Maria’s mother as a woman who encourages Maria to succeed but then feels alienated by what success has turned Maria into. Ivan Desny is brilliant as Karl Oswald as a textile industrialist who befriends Maria in a train as they later engage in their own affairs while he deals with his own mortality knowing he doesn’t have much time to live.

Klaus Lowitsch is amazing as Hermann Braun as a soldier that Maria would marry as he would be seen briefly for a bit as someone who is a man that is devoted to Maria as he would be this symbolic figure of love whom Maria is often attached to. Finally, there’s Hanna Schygulla in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as this woman who gets married only for her husband to disappear where she tries to find her identity where Schygulla displays a radiance to her role as well as this air of evolution from being a prostitute to a woman of power who still clings to her love for Hermann while coping with the affairs she engages in.

Die ehe der Maria Braun is a tremendous film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder that features an incredible leading performance from Hanna Schygulla. Along with its ensemble cast, dazzling visuals, a lively music soundtrack, and its theme of a woman trying to find her own identity during the postwar era. It is a film that explores this journey a woman takes where she becomes part of this economic rebirth while dealing with the fact that she is a married woman whose husband is lost with his own uncertain fate. In the end, Die ehe der Maria Braun is a spectacular film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Films: Love is Colder than Death - (Katzelmacher) - (Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?) - (Rio das Mortes) - (The American Soldier) - (Whity) - (Beware of a Holy Whore) - The Merchant of Four Seasons - The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant - Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day - (Jailbait) - World on a Wire - Ali: Fear Eats the Soul - (Martha (1974 film)) - (Effi Briest) - (Fox and His Friends) - (Mother Kuster’s Trip to Heaven) – (I Only Want You to Love Me) – Satan's Brew - (Chinese Roulette) - (Germany in Autumn) - (Despair) - (In a Year of 13 Moons) - (Third Generation) - (Berlin Alexanderplatz) - (Lili Marleen) - Lola (1981 film) - Veronika VossQuerelle

© thevoid99 2021


Dell said...

I've never heard of this film, or this film maker. That said, this sounds like one to see. Thanks for putting it on my radar.

Brittani Burnham said...

I love German movies, so I've been adding these to the list. I need to watch more.