The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fossbinder 1979): Germany

 

Reviewed by Lisa Walters. Viewed at AFI Film Festival 2013.

 

The Marriage of Maria Braun was quite obviously going to be about Maria Braun, however at first glance you might assume that she is a war wife, a love stricken widow, destined to work hard for the money, pine after her husband, remarry a nice man and settle down to raise children. That image goes away in the very first act, with the red lipstick, lots of eyeshadow, and attitude of our main character. She carries the “Is she or isn’t she (that bad?)” throughout a lot of the film, trading in lovers, obtaining wealth, and hurting men along the way. There lacked a depth in Maria, however I’m not sure that was a mistake. I read that among the several films Rainer Werner Fossbinder made in his time, they were always about sex, money, & death. Maria Braun is his ultimate cynical statement of the theme. Elegant costumes and decadence, along with a Germany torn apart by war, add to the parallels in this film. When Maria’s presumed dead soldier husband returns,and the soldier she has an affair with is killed, (and its not Maria who takes the fall, of course) I was reminded of a Danielle Steel novel, a trashy love tryst novel with a strong heroin at the helm of all the debauchery, getting rich, moving on. But Fossbinder makes you think twice with his ending in a very NON-trashy novel way. In my eyes, that didn’t redeem Maria, but it sure did redeem the film.

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