“The Marriage Of Maria Braun. . . the marriage lasted no longer than half a day and a full night.”
A woman picks herself up from the ruins of her own life in the gripping and heartbreaking 1979 drama The Marriage of Maria Braun. Prolific German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul) forged a maverick career weaving together such disparate elements as ‘50s Hollywood melodrama, gritty social realism and scathing political commentary, and with Marriage, his unique and much-imitated style reached its cinematic zenith, becoming his most famous film and his greatest popular success. It also exemplifies his clever, cunning use of conventional melodrama — derived from Hollywood films in general, and those of Douglas Sirk in particular — as a vehicle for critiquing the social and political state of post-World War II Germany. The sprawling soap opera plot concerns a young German woman who marries near the end of the war, only to lose her husband at the Russian front. Reduced to dire poverty in the war’s rubble-strewn aftermath, she improves her fortunes by using her great beauty and ruthless ambition on those around her, but things take a deadly turn when her husband unexpectedly returns.
Fassbinder’s postwar rags-to-riches tale of a “woman on the verge” brilliantly parallels West Germany’s so-called “Economic Miracle” of the 1950s, and in its razor-sharp examination of one woman’s desperate struggle for power and independence, it becomes a pointed metaphorical attack on a society determined to forget its past. Frequent Fassbinder star Hanna Schygulla’s (The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant) towering, sexually-charged performance as Maria Braun drew comparisons to Marlene Dietrich, and earned her the Best Actress award at the 1979 Berlin Film Festival. The first part of his loosely-related “postwar trilogy” (which also includes Veronika Voss and Lola), The Marriage of Maria Braun is pure, unbridled Fassbinder.