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After the death of her abusive father, the lonely librarian Martha marries an equally vile businessman - Helmut. The cruel and torturous nature of their relationship lead Martha to believe Helmut might be trying to kill her.

Writer:

Cornell Woolrich (story "For the Rest of Her Life")
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Margit Carstensen ... Martha Salomon, née Heyer
Karlheinz Böhm ... Helmut Salomon
Barbara Valentin ... Marianne
Peter Chatel ... Kaiser
Gisela Fackeldey Gisela Fackeldey ... Mother Heyer
Adrian Hoven ... Father Heyer
Ortrud Beginnen Ortrud Beginnen ... Erna
Wolfgang Schenck ... Meister
Günter Lamprecht Günter Lamprecht ... Dr. Herbert Salomon
El Hedi ben Salem ... Hotel guest
Rudolf Lenz Rudolf Lenz ... Porter
Kurt Raab ... Secretary - German embassy
Elma Karlowa ... Waitress
Heide Simon Heide Simon ... Nurse
Lilo Pempeit Lilo Pempeit ... (as Lieselotte Eder)
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Storyline

A single woman in her early thirties, Martha (Margit Carstensen) is on vacation with her father in Rome when he has a heart attack and falls down dead. She reacts rather indifferently and returns home to her highly-strung mother and begins to new era of her life taking care of a completely ungrateful and insulting mother (declining an offer of marriage from her boss). After a barrage of verbal abuse and offensive remarks from her mother who see's her as an 'ugly old spinster' she accepts a proposal of marriage from an equally insulting and disrespectful man, Helmuth. They honeymoon in Italy. While there Helmuth resigns Martha from the job that she loves, sends her mother to a mental institution, and lets his wife get horribly burnt in the sun while sleeping, then painfully rapes her. Martha gets back to Germany to find that Helmuth has rented them a new house, and she will not be able to return to her old home even to collect any of her things, which he says must be left behind her. ... Written by K Wedgwood

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

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Details

Country:

West Germany

Language:

German | Italian

Release Date:

28 May 1974 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

Gymni brosta sto dolofono See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

DEM 500,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Because of legal reasons, the film wasn't shown for over 20 Years. Cornell Woolrich right holders claimed that the film has a lot similarities to one of his novels. Fassbinder replied, that he first read the story after filming was complete. Nevetheless Woolrich got a writing-credit. The first German screening of a restored edition was in November 1997. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Martha Salomon, née Heyer: Yes, father, I'm coming down in a minute. No, father, I'm in the bath now. I'm going later.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Great Directors (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26
Composed by Max Bruch
Performed by Isaac Stern
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Martha
21 August 2010 | by random_avengerSee all my reviews

Martha Heyer, a librarian in her thirties (Margit Carstensen), is completely oppressed by her high-strung parents but receives a lot of attention from different men, all of whom she turns down because of her family. After the sudden death of her father (Adrian Hoven) and the suicide attempt of her unstable pill-popping mother (Gisela Fackeldey), she is approached by a handsome engineer named Helmut Salomon (Karlheinz Böhm) and agrees to his marriage proposal. He turns out to be a complete sadist and torments her in various ways, from isolating her from her former life to having her skin burnt in the sun and then roughly having sex with her. Martha doesn't know how to cope with the situation and just takes it all in without knowing how to put her anxiety into words, even though a friendly colleague Mr. Kaiser (Peter Chatel) would be willing to listen. Eventually things escalate dramatically.

The film's outlook of marriage is definitely bleak; besides Martha's private hell, the marriages of her friends are also presented as shallow and dishonest. The question of why Martha is so helpless and unable to defend herself against Helmut goes back to her old life with her overbearing parents: even though she shows signs of sarcasm and emotional detachment from them, she ultimately cannot leave their influence behind – the devastating power of upbringing and lifelong submission is one of the main themes of the film.

The technical direction of the story is done brilliantly; the long shots with moving cameras and the use of mirrors in the mise-en-scène are all enjoyable to examine throughout. Especially the spinning shot of Martha and Helmut's first encounter in Italy dizzies the mind in a good way and catches the feel of instant attraction well. Nevertheless, however skilfully presented, at almost two hours the parade of emotional cruelty feels a little too long and gets slightly repetitive towards the end. Over all, the development from the Ingmar Bergman-style family hell to the melodramatic last scenes helps to create a memorable and effective story arc for the tale though, and the actors suit their roles fine, especially the mousy, red-haired Carstensen. At the time of writing this review, I have yet to see many Fassbinder films, but Martha has certainly gotten me enthusiastic about seeing more as soon as possible. I eagerly recommend the film to anyone interested in R.W.F.'s work or the nature of oppressive relationships.


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