The Marriage Of Maria Braun 1978- Movie Review
She eludes you, even if she does start--and finish--with a bang. The first in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's trilogy about women in post-WWII Germany (followed by VERONIKA VOSS and LOLA), this was also the film that solidified Fassbinder's reputation abroad and in Germany. In the opening sequence, a German city is being torn apart by Allied bombs while Maria (Hanna Schygulla) and her soldier fiance, Hermann Braun (Klaus Lowitsch), are getting married. Immediately afterwards, the new husband is sent to the Russian front, leaving Maria with her mother and sister, impoverished and waiting for her husband, visiting the train station every day with the hope of hearing news about him. After receiving word that he has died, Maria takes work as a barmaid in a cafe that caters to American soldiers. There she meets Bill (George Byrd), a hefty black soldier who, despite the fact the they can barely converse, becomes her lover. Just when she has nearly forgotten about her husband, however, the starving and emasculated Hermann turns up while Maria and Bill are beginning to make love. The highly stylized, deliberate structure of THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN owes much to such Douglas Sirk 1950s Hollywood melodramas as IMITATION OF LIFE and WRITTEN ON THE WIND. For both Sirk and Fassbinder, the director remains distanced from the heart-wrenching dramatics of the story in order to comment on certain societal ills, but Fassbinder is even further removed from his material--a product of the alienation prominent in a postwar Germany striving to rebuild itself into an industrial power, yet failing to account for the human bonds that make a society healthy. The effect is one of helplessness; we can only watch as the beautiful, young Maria Braun places herself in an emotional vacuum.
Schygulla is quite powerful in perhaps the best role of her career, remaining cold and aloof, yet evoking a strong sense of pity. Though THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN is not always an easy film to understand, the stark atmosphere, icy performances, and poignant revelations make it one of the most important films to emerge from Germany in the 1970s, and one of Fassbinder's best.