Thursday, June 8, 2017

Marriage of Maria Braun [dir. Reiner Werner Fassbinder]

I am ashamed to say I only recently cracked open my Reiner Werner Fassbinder blu-ray boxset released in Mar 2016 (In my defence I received it only around a year late, since I'd originally had it shipped to a friend living overseas to avoid it getting nicked or exorbitantly taxed at customs). This too was after a fellow member on a forum put me a query about the framing/AR of Marriage of Maria Braun. Anyhoo, I ended up watching the film and oh wow, it was terrific.

At the beginning of the film Maria (the amazing Hanna Schygulla), a gutsy and self-reliant gal, is getting married to Hermann Braun in the midst of an Allied bombing raid. Immediately after, Hermann goes off to fight and is reported killed. Maria, who is very clear about doing whatever is needed to survive and maintain her family, takes up with an American soldier who is good to her. But Hermann returns, and in the altercation that follows, the American is killed by Maria. Hermann takes the rap and goes to jail. Maria then takes up with a businessman Oswald, becoming both his hard-headed business adviser and sensual mistress, and doing a sterling job of both. But her heart remains with Hermann and she plans to be with him when he is released. A pivotal moment between Oswald and Hermann leads to Hermann scooting off to Canada after his release, and it is only later that he returns to Maria. When Maria learns the circumstances of his going away and return, it leads to a veritable explosive climax.

FB has said that in the later phase of his prolific film-making career (40 features and 2 TV series in 15 years, his shorts and theater work aside) he was less interested in promoting ideologies and more interested in the story-telling, and MoMB is a fine example of story-telling. Maria is a fascinating character, cold and iron-willed from one perspective, passionate and faithful from another, and on both fronts utterly honest. She never lies about her actions or intentions, but her personal magnetism is so strong, men are attracted like moths to her flame. It's a fantastically written and portrayed role, the sort I would love to see in an Indian movie. Technically MoMB is well done, with some arresting lengthy takes and the look of a ravaged Germany, but the story and performances are what grab the most.

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