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 leads Martha to believe Helmut might be trying to kill her.
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
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. Nevertheless Woolrich got a writing-credit. The first German screening of a restored edition was in November 1997. See more »
Yes, hysterical as in exaggerated comedy, and hysterical as in the title character freaking out over her bizarre, ever-degenerating marriage. This is great Fassbinder film-making--the performances, cinematography, and dialogue are brilliant. As in many of his films, Fassbinder takes a perverse joy in keeping the audience balanced between comedy and melodrama, the laughs always tinged with apprehension. The colors are dominated by lurid reds. The arc of the story keeps one queasy as to how horrible the outcome might be.
The famous Sirk influence is very obvious in this as in many of RF's early 70's films, but what struck me is the equally obvious influence of Bunuel on Fassbinder's movies. "Martha" owes a great deal to "Belle du Jour" and "Tristana" among many other of the Spanish master's films about the natural perversity of male-female relationships.
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