The Marriage of Maria Braun is a German Film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and without doubt, is one of the best of Fassbinder in his brief career, and the greatest achievements of the once-radical new German Cinema movement.
This movie also is the first of Fassbinder’s BRD Trilogy and two films of BRD Trilogy-Lola (1981) and Veronika Voss (1982). These trilogy are all centered on women protagonist in the backdrop of WW2 and its aftermath. This movie is about the wife looking for her missing husband, a cabaret artist caught between two powerful men and a washed up Third Reich film star. These films offer careful analysis of the social make-up of those years in terms of dissidence and the changing and unchanging nature of Germany through that period. Fassbinder’s greatest achievement is perhaps his ability to put everyday life onto screen in short sagacious parables.
Fassbinder brings in the visual treat of a war widow rebuilding her life in post war Germany and rising high on the corporate ladder till she realizes that she has given too much of herself for the climb to enjoy the cause she was climbing for. On the other hand, the film can be observed in the way of appraising Germany, after the WWII and its acrimonious past, having lost its soul in the way of dealing with the new market capital which is also known as German economic miracle. In the core, it’s a damning indictment of the German post-war society and its economy.
The film opens with an absurdist scene where a marriage ceremony takes place under siege. Bombs dropping all around them, Maria (Hanna Schygulla) weds Hermann (Klaus Löwitsch), a German soldier she has known only briefly during the waning days of World War II. Eventually they are forced out of the rapidly disintegrating building and have to sign the certificate, cowering on the floor as debris and shrapnel rain down. The surrealist introduction, though, is all too similar to the realities of post-war society in Germany the director goes onto depict.
After a one-day honeymoon, Hermann returns to the Russian front, and Maria keeps a daily vigil at the train station, searching for any word about her husband. When word comes that he has died, she refuses to mourn her loss. Instead, she trades her mother’s brooch for a sexy black dress and finds work as a bar girl. In the redecorated confines of an old school gymnasium, Maria drifts into an affair with a black American soldier named Bill, a generous, cheerful, pudgy fellow by whom she becomes pregnant. But wait — Hermann is not dead!
As such things tend to go in the realm of farce, Hermann returns one evening just as Maria and Bill are preparing to make love. Maria, with the logic she uses in all crises, explains that although she likes Bill, she loves Hermann. There is a scuffle. Maria hits Bill over the head with a bottle, and in less time than it takes to write these words, Hermann has been packed off to prison and Maria has set off to make a fortune, which the two of them will share when he is released.
A chance meeting on a train with a factory owner, Karl Oswald (Ivan Desny), earns her a secretarial job. She begins an affair with Karl, and soon proves to be a formidable businesswoman. Maria’s single-minded rise through the company’s ranks mirrors the renaissance of the German postwar economy. Braun’s commitment to her marriage is in reality out of her love for the idea of such a spiritual bond, and Fassbinder shows with bitterness the futility of this, as their union and consummation is continually delayed, first by the war, then by Hermann’s incarceration, then as he is paid to stay away by her lover Karl, the owner of the company she has risen to the top.
The performances of all actors are terrific and especially the complex nature of characters, which the script and Fassbinder’s poised direction. Schygulla is magnificent and mesmerizing as Maria – as absolutely believable as she is impenetrable, the woman who lost her husband to the War, found him after she took an American soldier as a lover, lost him again after he went to jail for her, and found him again at the end. Her day and a half marriage before he disappeared was longer than their time together at the end. So is the life and the way human being get trickled to the mean of life and its changing times is what the film illustrate, and in the zealous fact- The Marriage of Maria Braun’ is both an epic comedy and a romantic ballad, two not especially friendly forms that become seamlessly one in the sweet, hard-hitting and intricate performance of Hanna Schygulla, who is becoming for Mr. Fassbinder what Stephane Audran once was for Claude Chabrol and Anna Karina was for Godard……. Maria Braun with a shining simplicity as an allegory of Germany, “a character that wears flashy and expensive clothes, but has lost her soul……………
The Marriage of Maria Braun was not only a critical, but also a commercial success. From its release until October 1979 more than 400,000 tickets were sold in West Germany, and were shown for up to 20 weeks in some film theaters. In West Germany alone the film made more than 4 million DM at the box office. In the same year of its German release the distribution deals for 25 countries were negotiated. In August 1981 the film was the first film by Fassbinder to be shown in East German film theaters. In the first six weeks of its theatrical release in the United States the film made $1.8 million at the box office.
- Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
- Produced by Michael Fengler
- Written by Peter Märthesheimer & Pea Fröhlich
- Casting: Hanna Schygulla, Klaus Löwitsch, Ivan Desny & Gisela Uhlen
- Music by Peer Raben
- Cinematography: Michael Ballhaus
- Editing by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (as Franz Walsch) & Juliane Lorenz
- Studio: Albatros Filmproduktion; Westdeutscher Rundfunk & Trio Film
- Release dates: 20 February 1979
- Running time of 115 minutes
- Country: West Germany
- Language: German