Continuing the filmography of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, his 1979 film, “Die Ehe der Maria Braun” [Eng. Title: The Marriage of Maria Braun] is the last in his BRD Trilogy, all relating to women and marriage during post-war Germany.
The film starts with Maria getting married to soldier Hermann right on the street – the registrar’s office had just been blown up by advancing Allies. It’s the last few days of the war in Europe, and Hermann is asked to report back to duty after half a day and one night’s marital bliss. When he’s reported as missing in action, Maria refuses to believe he’s dead, and decides to live in hope. But for that she needs to survive among the debris of war. She works at a bar frequented by American soldiers, and befriends a black sergeant who showers her with gifts and falls in love, but she refuses his marriage proposal, saying, “I’m fond of you, but I’m in love with my husband”.
The husband returns unexpectedly, but ends up in prison under dramatic circumstances. Maria visits Hermann in prison regularly and assures him she will become successful and rich by the time he is released. She now befriends a French industrialist and ends up working as his private secretary, later to have an affair with him, even becoming heiress to his fortune. Maria is determined to succeed and live for her husband, even if that requires having affairs with other men, and foreigners too. In fact, Maria the character is a parable for post war Germany itself, and the enforced break-up of the country into East and West.
The film is very well written, and the sharp-witted dialogues makes it a very fine satire. Even though I’m just scratching at the surface, I’m beginning to thoroughly enjoy Fassbinder. It is also amazing to see how much he puts into each of his films, considering he was a prolific filmmaker churning out films in quick succession, and with swift production schedules too. The film also features his regular muse and long-term friend Hanna Schygulla in the title role of Maria. This superb actress with oodles of class gives a sterling performance here.
The nudity is mainly through Hanna Schygulla. The DVD also came with some surprising extras, including a very interesting retrospective of women in Fassbinder’s films. Highly Recommended Viewing!