Wednesday, September 10, 2014

642. Die Ehe der Maria Braun/The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)

Running Time: 120 minutes
Directed By: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Written By: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Pea Frohlich, Peter Marthesheimer
Main Cast: Hanna Schygulla, Klaus Lowitsch, George Byrd, Ivan Desny, Gisela Uhlen
Click here to view the trailer


Today was mine and my wife's Sunday. As we prepare to head back to work tomorrow, relaxation was the word of the day and it was nice to chill out on the bed and pop in a DVD. The DVD just so happened to be the conclusion to Fassbinder Week - The Marriage of Maria Braun - and while I wish it had been better, it was still a relaxing afternoon. Read on...

The film opens by establishing two points, right off the bat: 1) Maria (Schygulla) - our main character -  has JUST married Hermann Braun (Lowitsch) and 2) World War II is ON! The film, like most of Fassbinder's stories, is set in Germany and after those principal facts are cemented and following the opening credits, we learn that Maria and Hermann only got about two days out of their nuptials before Hermann was whisked off to war. During war, Hermann goes missing and Maria dedicates her life to wearing a sandwich board bearing his picture, accompanied by the words "have you seen Hermann Braun?". When the husband of a friend returns from war, he brings news that Hermann was killed in action, thus prompting Maria to move on with her life despite her grief. She goes to see a man about a job and lands one as a "hostess" in a bar frequented by American soldiers. I say "hostess" with the quotations, because it seems that without using the exact words, Maria has become a prostitute. She infatuates an African American soldier named Bill (Byrd) and the two begin a fling: him teaching her English and her teaching him anatomy - if you get my drift. During an afternoon romp, the two are walked in on by none other than Hermann and when the returning soldier strikes her down, Bill attacks him. Happy to see her long lost hubby come home, Maria acts quickly, striking Bill in the head and killing him. Maria stands trial, but during the proceedings, Hermann gives himself up as the man who killed Bill and is sentenced to a prison term. While incarcerated, Maria then strikes up a relationship with a successful French businessman named Oswald (Desny) - becoming both his professional assistant and his mistress. The Frenchman comes to fall in love with Maria, but Maria vows to wait for Hermann and that she could never marry any other man. Over time, Maria becomes wealthy while waiting for Hermann, who is later released but goes away to Canada so that he can become a better man for Maria.


Those looking to THE BOOK to get a plot synopsis on this one, beware! This is another case of the writers of THE BOOK writing as if they hadn't seen the film in ages and thus, giving misinformation. THE BOOK states that Bill attacked Maria and tried to rape her when she accidentally killed him, which isn't what happened at all. It not only makes you wonder about the other plot synopsis' (there are TONS of errors, trust me) but also the second paragraphs, which usually give personal opinions by whichever critic is writing that particular entry. Are they examining these films correctly or just guessing, because they actually haven't seen the film in a while? I haven't read the newest edition cover to cover, but I really hope the errors are kept to a minimum. Anyway...

I wasn't as crazy about this one as I was the other three Fassbinder flicks. I hate to keep pointing to World War II as the source of so much of my personal displeasure from THE BOOK, but lets just say that if I hated war films coming into this project, I hate them even more going out. In all honesty, I can handle a bit of war and even here it's simply the backdrop, but it's not particularly a world I found nearly as interesting as other worlds explored by Fassbinder, in the other three BOOK works I've seen. The characters and themes explored here weren't nearly as intriguing either. In fact, what exactly were the themes being explored here? I didn't have near as much fun analyzing this one, as I did say "Petra Von Kant", because I just didn't find that much analytical material. You had this character of Maria, who at times was fascinating, yet she wasn't really fascinating enough. What were her motives, her true desires, her endgame? I had trouble putting my finger on anything this character represented and ultimately, there were more than a few times during the picture where I was just flat out bored and ready for FIN.

On the other hand, the sexual tendencies and escapades of Maria were worth the audiences time and exploration and Hanna Schygulla was MAGNIFICENT! How have I not heard of this actress more? She was, for the two hour duration of this picture, sex appeal in female form! That red lipstick that managed to hypnotize me into hanging on every single syllable that she uttered. That hairdo that seemed to change in every scene and the lavish costumes that accentuated her as an object of desire. Seriously, sexy is an understatement!

I was with the picture for a while, but in the end I was just disappointed that it wasn't AS good as the other Fassbinder films I've seen in the past week. I liked it up to a point, but then the characters just seemed to go too astray for me and ultimately, they lost me. I really wanted to like it, but now that it's over I can say that it was just above average and that's all. Perhaps a rewatch someday will do in making me see the greatness of this one, but for today I say that there's much better Fassbinder's to behold.

RATING: 5.5/10  Well there you have it, the conclusion of the Fassbinder flicks and with it, the passing of four of my most anticipated films from THE BOOK. I will say that Fassbinder did not disappoint and as I've already noted in past posts, he was someone that I just somehow KNEW I'd take to. I look forward to seeing the rest of his forty-something filmography and hopefully finding more favorites.


1. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
2. Fox and His Friends
3. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant
4. The Marriage of Maria Braun


September 10, 2014  5:15pm


  1. I pretty much agree with all you said.. and the summing up / ranking.
    I really should devote far too much of my life to 'Berlin Alexandra platz' soonish..

    BTW.. in the index of your copy .. have they got round to correcting the typo.. this is listed as the marriage of Eva Braun (who was Hitler's mistress). Someone not paying attention...

    1. WOW, we really agreed pretty greatly on Fassbinder then didn't we? That's great when that happens.

      Yes, in my 5th edition, the typo is fixed...Again I say, the editors/writers of this book let TONS of errors get through.

  2. A bit of an aside.. but I thught you may be interested to know.. I've just made a start of 'Berlin Alexandra Platz'...Only done two episodes so far, but it's shaping up very well indeed.

    1. Oh definitely let me know how that goes. I've tried a few other Fassbinder this year to no avail, so I'm looking to find more non BOOK, good ones of his.

  3. update.. Just passed episode 6.. some stodgy moments, but still a winner for me.

    1. Okay, but here's the big question: Do you think I'd like it? I feel like you know my taste pretty well by now, so what would be your guess?

  4. Now then.. that's a tricky one...
    If it was a regular 90min film, I'd certainly say yes, go for it.
    You liked (most) of Fassbinder's stuff, with 'Fox and his Friends' as your second.. 'Berlin..' is perhaps the closest in feel, subjest, mood. There is also a fair bit of Bergman feel to it as well..

    BUT at 15 hours.. it's one heck of a project to take on, and I'd hate to commit you to it and then find yu didn't like it... Big responsability for me to take on!
    Can you get hold of the first episode to just 'try'?

    1. Well even if I did see it and not like it, I certainly wouldn't blame you for misleading me. I did love Fox and His Friends and would probably call that my favorite of Fassbinder, so that's reassuring that you compare it to that one. I'll get around to seeing it one of these days.


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