Not knowing the book or any of the films that are based on it, I was without prejudice when I sat down in the cinema, looking forward to a beautiful period piece.
The cast is exquisite, no doubt about that; but some of the best German actors couldn't save this film from an empty script and a director who seems not to have had the slightest idea why she wanted to tell that particular story.
Thinking back, I found that there where exactly two well-done scenes in the two tedious hours of the film:
The first was Effi in her new home taking a bath. The housekeeper (the great Barbara Auer) enters and offers to wash her back. Effi is clearly uncomfortable about this but doesn't dare to say no. Does the housekeeper fail to notice Effi's embarrassment, or is she deliberately being cruel? Beautiful scene, full of suspense.
The second scene is near the end, when Effi's little daughter is finally send to visit her outcast mother. The child, obviously instructed to act cold by her father and/or housekeeper, doesn't move her face and gives only very short answers, and Effi gets more and more desperate. This was a touching scene, and I asked myself: How come that after two hours with all these capable actors acting so hard and showing so much emotion, the best scene is about a little child, just sitting there, not moving a muscle of her face at all?
The editing of this film is without style and rhythm, the music is unimaginative and boring, but even worse is the cinematography. It's shot in CinemaScope, but why? Apart from some landscapes and interiors, most of them badly framed, we get mainly close-ups, close-ups and more close-ups. There's nothing more pathetic than shooting on CinemaScope and not knowing what to do with it.
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