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Fontane Effi Briest (1974)

Not Rated | | Drama, History | 16 June 1977 (USA)
In the nineteenth century, seventeen year old Effi Briest is married to the older Baron von Instetten and moves into a house, that she believes has a ghost, in a small isolated Baltic town.... See full summary »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Hanna Schygulla ... Effi Briest
Wolfgang Schenck ... Instetten
Ulli Lommel ... Major Crampas
Lilo Pempeit Lilo Pempeit ... Frau Briest
Herbert Steinmetz Herbert Steinmetz ... Herr Briest
Ursula Strätz Ursula Strätz ... Roswitha
Irm Hermann ... Johanna
Karlheinz Böhm ... Wüllersdorf (as Karl-Heinz Böhm)
Karl Scheydt Karl Scheydt ... Kruse
Barbara Lass ... Polnische Köchin
Rudolf Lenz Rudolf Lenz ... Geheimrat Rummschüttel
Andrea Schober ... Annie von Instetten
Eva Mattes ... Hulda
Theo Tecklenburg Theo Tecklenburg ... Pastor Niemeyer
An Dorthe Braker An Dorthe Braker ... Frau Pasche (as Anndorthe Braker)


In the nineteenth century, seventeen year old Effi Briest is married to the older Baron von Instetten and moves into a house, that she believes has a ghost, in a small isolated Baltic town. She soon bears a daughter, Annie, and hires the lapsed Catholic Roswitha to look after her. Effi is lonely when her husband is away on business, so she spends time riding and walking along the shore with Major Crampas. Instetten is promoted to Ministerial Councillor and the family moves to Berlin, where Effi enjoys the social life. Six years later, the Baron is given letters from Crampas to Effi that convince him that they had an affair. He feels obliged to challenge Crampas to a duel and banish Effi from the house. Written by Will Gilbert

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History


Not Rated | See all certifications »



West Germany



Release Date:

16 June 1977 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Effi Briest See more »


Box Office


DEM 750,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Tango Film See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The complete title of the film is one of the longest titles (if not the longest) in film history: "Fontane Effi Briest oder viele, die eine Ahnung haben von ihren Möglichkeiten und ihren Bedürfnissen und trotzdem das herrschende System in ihrem Kopf akzeptieren durch ihre Taten und es somit festigen und durchaus bestätigen" See more »


Effi Briest: One's associations are connected not only with one's personal experiences, but also with what one has heard or happens to know.
See more »


Featured in Die Nacht der Regisseure (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

The Calculus of Fear
9 January 2010 | by hasoschSee all my reviews

One the tablets used by Fassbinder in this movie (the same method he shall use 6 years later in "Berlin Alexanerplatz") shows the text: "He put her under pressure wherever he could. So-to-say a calculus of fear" (Fontane). As any other calculi, also the calculus of fear consists of theorems. Speaking about the relationship between Von Instetten and Effi, we have: 1. Never treat her without menacing, but do not show the menace open, so that you can deny it after. 2. Isolate her from society, best make her a child as soon as possible so that she does not get bored. 3. Never praise her for what she is doing, unless in the presence of foreigners. 4. Praise her in front of her parents with whom you should establish a good friendship. If she is complaining later about her marriage, the guilt will be given to her.

As the sub-title of the movie says (the longest ever used in a movie): The movie is about those people who are capable to see the unjustness of social rules but don't help changing them, and by doing so, confirm them. "Effi Briest" is therefore a typical Fassbinder movie which he liked to call "melodramas" and thus also a predecessor of his later "women-movies" about Maria Braun, Lola, Lili Marleen and Veronika Voss.

That this film is an outstanding masterpiece has nowadays been recognized by all leading film experts around the world. Although Fassbinder let himself sometimes inspire by works of literature, Fontane's "Effi Briest" is one of his only three explicit literature adaptations, besides "Berlin Alexanderplatz" and "Querelle". One could perhaps go as far and say: While in "Effi Briest", society is criticized at the hand of one single, individual fate, in "Berlin Alexanderplatz" a society as a whole is put in the pillory, and in "Querelle" a possible alternative world after all the disgust is shown. Fassbinder made this long way in societal criticism in only eight years, during which he approached the society of the time in which he lived, by systematically coming closer to reach the 50ies of the 20th century (Lola). His movies can be seen as chronicles of different means of suppression by using calculi which turn out to be independent of time.

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