Wednesday, June 27, 2012

“Die Ehe der Maria Braun” (1979)

“The Marriage of Maria Brown” is considered by many to be Fassbinder’s best film. Fassbinder was an incredibly prolific German director in the 1970s. It was perhaps genius that he made so many watchable films in a span of 12 or so years, but it is a stretch to think of him as truly one of the greats of cinema. If this was his best film, then perhaps competent and committed might be better adjectives.

“Maria Braun” like most of his films is heavy melodrama. It concerns a woman in the post-war years of the fifties. It tells of her rise to wealth and comfort using the men in her life, all the while claiming a love for her husband of “half a day and a whole night” who was shipped off to war right after their wedding. He was long presumed dead, and then spent the decade in prison for a murder that she committed.

The promotional materials for the film claimed that it was all about the men around her and what they would do for love, but it is really a film about her and her drive to survive. It could very well be seen as a metaphor for the German nation after the war. The way they claimed some verbal loyalty to the values and ideals they may have had before the war, but how they became whatever the powers of the world wanted them to be to survive. In the early years it was the military occupiers and the wealth and security they provided; later in the decade it changed to the financial interests that turned her into an economic miracle.

In the end it is a tragedy about someone who sees life merely as a fight to fulfill one’s needs, that all relationships and people are simply means to an end. And what an end indeed! Thankfully, for the nation history continued and they are able to build an identity that transcends their past. But there is still that problem of the ideals and values that have been forgotten and neglected…

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