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A tale of how Germany was rebuilt by women following the horrors of World War Two.
whitikau30 November 2004
We watched this film in our German Cinema class at university some years ago, and I still remember it well.

Without wishing to give too much away, it tells the tale of a woman who, seeing the desolate landscape that Germany was in 1945, determines to build herself a comfortable life and, as she does so, she becomes one of many women in Germany rebuilding the nation. This was a time, historically, when the women were a greater driving force in the social and economic rebuilding of the nation than were the men (who were both lacking in credibility following the horrors and the mess of the years past, and somewhat dazed by what the nation had just been through).

As she builds that life (and in so doing helps to rebuild the nation), however, she finds that she may have sacrificed too much.

It is a movie worth watching in order to gain some understanding of what life was like in Germany from 1945 to roughly 1970. Rainer Fassbinder makes use of images in places which show the transition of German society from broken ruins to economic superpower, the changing status of women in German society over that time period, the changing attitudes both within Germany and from outside toward Germany, and the sacrifices that women were prepared to make in order to build the Germany that they ultimately did. It also asks, though, if the single-minded pursuit of rebuilding the nation economically and materially did not take too much out of the nation and the people in other areas.

I enjoyed the movie, and am happy to recommend it.
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8/10
Maria and Her Men
Galina_movie_fan15 October 2006
Sensual and tough Maria Braun. (Hanna Schygula) marries a soldier in the middle of World War II and spends a half of day and the whole night with him. That's how long her marriage lasts before she loses him to the war and then to prison. She carries on with her life, becomes a successful businesswoman being not only sensual but intelligent, ambitious, and willing to use sex whenever or wherever necessary: "I don't know a thing about business, but I do know what German women want. You might even say I'm an expert on it". While climbing up to the success she always remembers her husband, Hermann (her man) and convinces herself that whatever she does – is for him, for their future happy life together. "Maria Braun"'s style reminds much of melodramas by Fassbinder's favorite Hollywood director, Douglas Sirk and offers a glimpse of the loss and survival in postwar Germany. Hanna Schygula literally shines in every scene of the movie and she is fantastic.

8.5/10
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Most effective entry in Fassbinder's Wirtschaftswunder Trilogy
mdm-112 October 2004
First and best of Fassbinder's Post-WWII "Wirtschaftswunder" films. His lead character, a young woman, determined to emerge out of Germany's WWII ruins as a success, literally "walks over corpses" to get what she wants. Marrying a man doomed to be among the last to "fall" for the Fuehrer and the German Reich, Maria is now "Frau" instead of "Fraulein". Initially searching for her MIA husband, she eventually gives it up and moves on. Climbing the ladder, Maria Braun has her share of good times. Showering her impoverished family with lavish presents and lifting everyone's life-style up by a notch, Maria becomes the celebrated "Wunderkind" who gets whatever she wants. Although her uppity attitude isn't always popular, and there is plenty of talk about Maria (and her "ways"), Maria Braun laughs it all away. The Marlene Dietrich-like heroine always has the last laugh, as the shocking ending proves.

This is a Modern Classic, one of the very best films to come out of the 1970s/80s German Cinema. Much stronger than "Veronica Foss" and in the league of "Das Boot", "The Marriage of Maria Braun" is a product of Modern German Dramatic Cinema's golden age. No sugar coating, just pure, unadulterated truth as seen through the rear-view mirror of people who have lived the horrors and survived into new tomorrows. A true gem of a film!
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8/10
Fassbinder's masterpiece
rosscinema4 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** This is without a doubt the best film Rainer Werner Fassbinder ever made and even with the marvelous script the film is enhanced by a great performance by Hanna Schygulla. Film starts out with Maria (Schygulla) and Hermann Braun (Klaus Lowitsch) just getting married as the bombs continue to fall and Hermann is shipped out towards the waning days of the war and now Maria and her mother and sister must scrape by to survive. Maria decides to get a job as a dancer/prostitute in a club that caters to American GI's and she meets a black Army soldier named Bill (Greg Eagles) and they start to see one another on a steady basis. Maria hears that her husband Hermann has died in the war so she gets very serious with Bill. But one day while getting intimate with Bill they see Hermann at the door. He hasn't died and when he enters the room a scuffle occurs and Maria breaks a bottle over Bill's head and he dies. Hermann takes the blame and he is sentenced to a long term in jail so Maria tells him that she will succeed at something and get him out. The war has ended and Germany must rebuild and one day on a train Maria meets Karl Oswald (Ivan Desny) who is a successful businessman in textiles and she uses her charms to get a job. Maria is determined to do well and climbs the corporate ladder and becomes Karl's mistress. She tells him that she will never marry him but he is in love with her. Hermann gets out of jail but goes to Canada to try and get over everything that Maria has done since he has been locked up.

*****SPOILER ALERT*****

One day Karl dies and leaves Maria just about everything in his will and Maria buys her own house. Then Hermann finally comes home to his wife and they are both ready to start they're marriage even though they have been married for some time now. But Maria leaves the gas on the stove and the house explodes with both of them still in it.

There are so many interesting things in this film that its one of those movies that can be studied and talked about to great lengths. Like in all Fassbinder films the use of color is used in a very interesting way. As the film begins the tones are brown and gray to represent war torn Germany but as Maria starts to become successful they change to bright rich colors like red and white. The rebuilding of Germany with all the sounds of construction are used as only backdrop and the film stays focused on the exploits of Maria. Fassbinder did want the sounds of rebuilding to remind us of what was going on in Germany at that time. Hanna Schygulla was never better and her performance is the key to the success of this film. With a lesser actress this would have been just another interesting film but Schygulla is so strong that her performance elevates this film to an elite status. Schygulla shows Maria as very determined and smart but at the same time she uses her beauty and femininity to get what she wants. She's not embarrassed nor does she feel guilty about this and Fassbinder wanted to show Maria as a woman who practically sells her soul to survive. Schygulla wasn't nominated for an Academy Award but she gave a great performance that will stand the test of time. Fassbinder himself appears in the film as a peddler and his own mother Lilo Pempeit plays Frau Ehmke. I have heard many things about the ending of the film and it has to do with whether Maria purposely left the gas on. Later in the bathroom she is running water over her wrist and she appears to be sad. This is only speculation and if you think I'm wrong please e-mail me. I think she was overly excited by Hermann being home and left it on by accident (Remember her putting on a dress for no reason?). Then when the will is being read to her its at that point that she learns that Hermann and Karl had become friendly without her knowledge and I think she felt that everything she had done was for nothing. Thats the reason for the bathroom scene. So when the house explodes its by accident. But I think the reason for Fassbinder having an ending like that is to show that anyone who would sell their soul has no business living. Fassbinder was fascinated by survivors but he was also incredibly passionate. In his view Maria can't have it both ways. A fascinating film.
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Post-War Germany Up Close and Personal
Wryter4711 August 2003
Having heard of this film for years, I didn't see it until 2003! Perhaps it's just as well that I waited. It is one of the finest films of its type -- post WW2 in Germany -- that I've ever seen; perhaps on balance the finest.

It seems to me that rather than being a cynical portrayal of those difficult years, it is more truthful and revelatory in a deep way. I imagine that no one other than those who lived then can begin to tell the story, which is why Fassbinder has tried on our behalf -- to try to convey to us the angst, the frustrations, the sadness, the insanity, the querulousness, the fragile hope of that era.

I find the story very sad, of course, because in my early-21st century psyche I'm more tuned into the love story than I am the tale of the sociology and social psychology of an era that occurred when I was very young. It seems to me that if one views the characters as representatives of some of the major "world views" obtaining during the reconstruction period, one sees a few of the many different human reactions there can be to such an experience: Many feel burned out and can't feel hope any longer; others, like Maria, feel there is at least money and position to be gained under the new dispensation; some simply don't care; others try to feed off the experience without contributing; and so on and so forth.

It also occurred to me that, at age 60, I may be in a position to appreciate this film more, and certainly to be more understanding of and sympathetic with the characters/types portrayed. I found each of them to have an important story to tell, whether it was a "good" story or not. And the character of the Black US Army Sergeant, while tragic at the end, was itself an essay in human relations that has to embarrass most Americans -- the fleeting moments when he and Maria found joy and pleasant times together were just wonderful to behold, and an indictment of our sad history in that regard.

View it and see what you think!
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Allegory of Postwar Germany
batzi8m18 November 1999
Alright already, get over it, was Handke's comment to the 1968 meeting of the Gruppe 48 -- those writers who wanted to "heal" from the war. Well Fassbinder doesn't want to heal, he wants to indict. And this movie, probably his most accessible, takes a woman as the symbol for the nation-- a theme common to prehistoric oral literature, particularly among the Irish, made famous by Grimmelshausen's Mother Courage and updated by Brecht's play. But in this version, instead of the tragic Mother trying to save her children and mourning them, Maria Braun sells out for comfort from collaboration with the Nazi's through the economic wonder "Wirtschaftswunder" of the cold war. This was Fassbinder's big hit, because he toned down his politics both sexual and marxist, to focus on the loss of soul that Germany experienced. It was also Hanna Schygulla's Oscar worthy performance, probably one of her best of many great ones. Like little Oskar from the Tin Drum, Maria Braun was stunted by the experience, only on the inside.
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A rich, evocative and darkly ironic masterpiece
ThreeSadTigers29 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) was the first part of director Rainer Werner Fassbinder's celebrated trilogy of films that looked specifically at the period following the end of the Second World War, and in particular, the socio-political and economic re-birth of Germany following the Wirtschaftswunder. All three films in the trilogy look at these situations through the eyes of a strong-willed, arrogant and determined female-protagonist who strives against all odds to achieve the kind of lifestyle that she has always desired, but once she does, finds herself still feeling empty and lacking in spirit. The characters in these films come to represent Fassbinder's own feelings about the Germany of this particular period, whilst simultaneously acting as an allegorical portrayal and deeper interpretation of the qualities and characteristics of the country itself.

Fassbinder opens this richly political film, not with a scene of screaming polemic, but with a bust of action and a sense of jarring confusion. Using staccato editing techniques and elaborate visual compositions that obscure and fragment large portions of the frame in much the same way as his earlier films - such as The Merchant of Four Seasons (1972), Fox and his Friends (1974) and Mother Kusters' Trip to Heaven (1975) but with the harsher, more Brechtian inspired sense of deliberate distraction found in later films, like The Third Generation (1979) and In a Year of 13 Moons (1978) - Fassbinder is able to take us completely off guard; creating a misleading sense of what the film might be, whilst simultaneously developing a number of themes and motifs that will reoccur throughout. The scene in question captures the wedding of our central character Maria to the soon-to-be shipped off soldier Herrmann Braun as a procession of falling bombs destroy the small chapel and the surrounding area of their village. It is to this day one of the most startling opening sequences from any of Fassbinder's work; with the war-time iconography, use of ironic, on-screen inter-titles, freeze-frames and the continual punctuation of loud explosions and jarring cuts in the editing, all grabbing our attention right from the off.

From this set up, Fassbinder uses the situation to explore the eventual ideas of faith, loyalty and betrayal, incorporating an early subplot in which Maria - who earnestly believes that her husband has been killed in battle - begins a passionate relationship with one of the American G.I.s who hangs out at the bar where she works. The notions that arise from this set up are the same notions and themes that will be fleshed out in the films that would follow; with the external similarities of plot and location being found in the next film, Lola (1981), whilst the internal angst and ideas of loneliness and despair can be found in the final film, Veronika Voss (1982). Following the return of her husband and his subsequent incarceration, Maria begins her odyssey into self-preservation and economic re-birth by exploiting her surroundings and the offers of others - no matter how seemingly suspect - in order to secure herself a more comfortable future that we know is ultimately unattainable.

Lola, the second film in the trilogy, which took its inspiration from Josef Von Sternberg's The Blue Angel (1930), would eventually look at how that same sense of opportunism, greed and determination can be used for more selfish reasons, sowing the seeds of tragedy and eventual air of blind exploitation that would come full circle with the third film, Veronika Voss. Veronika Voss exists in very much the same cinematic universe as the two other films that formed the backbone of what would eventually become known as "the BRD trilogy"; though Fassbinder himself had often talked of plans to make more films in a similar vein - analysing post-war German history through to the present day - but was unable to continue the theme due to his untimely death in June of 1982. Regardless, The Marriage of Maria Braun skilfully establishes the ideas that would go towards forming the dramatic nucleus of these two subsequent works, depicting the sense of determination and the sheer triumph of will that went towards rebuilding Germany from the ashes of the Second World War through the eyes of a resolute young woman willing to push her own emotional stability to breaking point in order to secure a better future for her and her incarcerated husband.

To me, it is startling to think that Fassbinder could begin something as obviously political and large of scale as the film in question only a few months after having completed the incredibly personal and controversial In a Year of 13 Moons and the similarly controversial but very much satirical The Third Generation; with the entire look, feel and evocative period recreation of The Marriage of Maria Braun seeming light-years away from the harsh, unglamorous and unflinching depictions of late 1970's Frankfurt and Berlin with their various homosexual and pseudo-radical subcultures. There are continual overlapping themes to tie them all together, but at times it really does feel like the work of a completely different filmmaker; almost as if Fassbinder had a shadowy alter-ego who made painfully honest and personal films alongside his more large-scale and popular works. Not to say that this doesn't have its personal moments, and of course, there is still that ending, with its ironic and almost melodramatic mark of devastation and the almost subversive sense of mocking satire that is something that only Fassbinder could pull off.

The Marriage of Maria Braun is, without question, one of the highpoint of Fassbinder's all-too brief career and one of the crowning achievements of the once-radical New German Cinema movement. It remains, along with the other two films of the BRD trilogy - a fitting testament to his enormous talent and under-appreciated genius, not only as a director of actors and a communicator of ideas, but as a serious filmmaker with a peerless grasp of editing, design, music and cinematography.
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10/10
torrid melodrama about a woman who can get what she wants, but needs are another matter
Quinoa198421 June 2009
Maria Braun got married right in the middle of combat all around her and her husband Hermann. An explosion ripped through the building, to begin with, and she and Hermann had to sign the papers on a pile of rubble on the street. Perhaps this may strike some as a heavy-handed metaphor for what's about to come: marriage on the rocks, so to speak. It's a betrothal where the husband goes off to war and is held in a Russian prison camp, unbenownst to the helpless but hopeful and proud Maria, who keeps standing by the depressing rubble of the train station as some come home, others don't, with a sign awaiting Hermann.

Trouble arises, as happens in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's melodramas, and as its one of his best and most provocative, we see as Maria (uncommonly gorgeous Hanna Schygulla in this role) will do a two-face: she'll stand by her man, even if it means working at a bar for American GI's and, even still after she hears from a fellow soldier that Hermann has died will still stand by him as she sleeps with a black GI and comes close to bearing his child (that is, naturally, until he reappears and a murder occurs and he takes the rap so she can be safe), or working for a German businessman (effectively sympathetic Ivan Desny) and becoming his sometimes mistress and rising star in the company. Maria will do whatever it takes to be successful, but she'll always be married.

It's hard to say there's anything about Maria that isn't fascinating. Money, sex, power, all of these become interchangeable for Maria. She's like the feminist that has her cake and eats it with a sultry smile: she gets to have a husband, more or less (actually a lot less until the last ten minutes of the film) while obtaining things- a man who dotes on her whenever he can, a new and expensive house with servants, a secretary, money- that others around her aren't getting due to already being with a man or too weak in a position to rise anywhere (such as the secretary, played interestingly enough by Fassbinder's own mother).

Maria is sexy, confident, and all alone, with an idealized life going against a life that should be made in the shade. She says of the two men- the American soldier and poor old and sick Oswald- that she's fond of them, and at the same time will stick by those roses the confused and soul-searching husband Hermann sends from Canada, after being released from prison. She's casts a profile that a feminist would love to trounce, but understand where she's coming from and going all the way.

Fassbinder employs this inherent contradiction, and moments with Maria appear to go against the conventions of a melodrama (for example, Hermann walking in on the jubilant and half-naked Maria and GI is just about a masterpiece of a scene, with Maria's reaction not of surprise or guilt but pure happiness to see that he's there let alone alive), while sticking to his guns as a director of such high-minded technique with a storyline that should be predictable. But it isn't really. It's like one big metaphor for a country that, after the war, couldn't really move on to normalcy. A few times Fassbinder puts sound of the radio on in the background, and we see Maria walking around her family house, hustle and bustle going on around her, and the radio speaks of a divided Germany, of things still very unsettled, of a disarray. Maybe the only way to cope is excess, or maybe that's just my interpretation of it.

It's hard to tell, really, under Schygulla's stare face and eyes, anyway. It's such an incredible performance, really, one of those showstoppers that captures the glamor and allure of an old-time Hollywood female star while with the down-and-dirty ethic of a girl of the streets. Most telling are the opposing costumes one sees in one scene when she finally is with her husband, where she stars in one of those super-lustful black lingerie pieces and high heels, and then moves on to a dress without even thinking about it. That's almost the essence of what Maria is, and Schygulla wonderfully gets it down, a headstrong but somehow loving figure who is adored and perplexed by the men around her, sometimes in a single sentence. This is what Fassbinder captures in his wonderful first part of his "trilogy"; while I might overall prefer Veronika Voss as a masterpiece, Maria Braun is perhaps just as good as a character study, of what makes a woman tick and tock with (almost) nothing to lose.
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bad times for feelings
TheFerryman29 January 2004
A complex, pessimistic tale of post WWII Germany, this is one of Fassbinder's masterpieces that brings a step beyond the classic melodrama form articulated by Douglas Sirk. When Hanna Schygulla says to her husband in prison `this are bad times for feelings' it is Fassbinder saying that in the seventies cinema there's no place for the classic melodrama of the 40s and 50s, unless all the craze that then was suggested now turns somehow more explicit. Fassbinder has a quality of elevating low elements into the realms of High Art, not only through the services of his personal use of the camera, but also through an admirable compassion towards his material.
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7/10
Allegory
bix17115 March 2015
While it's never less than interesting, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's allegory about the post-war economic German Miracle is somewhat slow and stifling, designed to constantly remind the viewer that an allegory is indeed what it is and to discount the notions of love that the writers (there are several, including Fassbinder) push to the fore. Hanna Schygulla is good as the lead symbol, a war bride whose calculated sexual aggressiveness (a symbol of West Germany's rapaciousness) brings her to prominence in industry while she pines for her husband, who is imprisoned for murder. The points Fassbinder's trying to make are a bit obtuse and perhaps not designed for American viewers (those are his prerogatives, after all) but the early scenes of the country immediately after the war are fascinating and he's aided immensely by the great Michael Ballhaus' restless camera. After prosperity begins, Fassbinder relies more on words and the visuals become more traditional and blander and it's also here where the melodrama escalates, sometimes pretentiously.
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Fraulein Mildred Pierce
Tipu13 October 1999
There is a strong resemblance of 'Maria Braun' to Curtiz' noirish 'Mildred Pierce'. While Mildred rebuilds her life after a personal tragedy, so does Maria, albeit in the backdrop of the post-war German economic disaster. Just as Mildred's loyalty was to her daughter, for Maria it was her husband Hermann (her man?). The two make sacrifices for each other hoping to build a better life for themselves. The major difference is that Maria's husband is a much more sympathetic character than Mildred's daughter, which robs the movie of some tension. Of course since Maria herself is not a very likeable person, one doesn't feel too much for her.

The story in a nutshell is of almost war widow Maria Braun rebuilding her life in post war Germany & rising high on the corporate ladder till she realises that she has given too much of herself for the climb to enjoy the cause she was climbing for.

Standing by itself, I still think this movie will appeal either to European baby boomers or serious students of Fasbinder. The narrative is straight forward & the final TV audio track is a brilliant touch. Hanna Schygulla as Maria gives yet another great performance for Fasbinder.
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6/10
An Allegory of Germany
JamesHitchcock22 October 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"The Marriage of Maria Braun" tells the story of post-war Germany as seen by a young woman, the title character Maria Braun. The film opens in 1943 with Maria's marriage to a soldier named Hermann Braun. After only a day spent together, Hermann must return to his unit, and is later posted as missing, presumed dead, on the Russian front.

After the war we find Maria (like most Germans during this period) living in desperate poverty, but she finds work as a bar hostess and, believing her husband to be dead, becomes the lover of Bill, a black soldier with the American occupation forces, who helps to support her financially. (At least, Bill is supposed to be American, but whoever wrote his dialogue seems to have been more familiar with British than with American English. He makes far more frequent use of the expletive "bloody" than any American I have come across). Subsequent developments involve Hermann's unexpected return to Germany after being held in a Soviet prison camp, his imprisonment for the killing of Bill (a crime actually committed by Maria herself) and Maria's life as the mistress of Karl, a wealthy industrialist.

The French film critic Jean de Baroncelli saw Maria Braun as an allegory of Germany, "a character that wears flashy and expensive clothes, but has lost her soul". There is certainly some truth in this comparison, but I felt it might perhaps be more accurate to say that it is the marriage of Maria and Hermann which is an allegory of the plight of Germany during the Cold War years. When the film was made in the late seventies, the country had been partitioned between East and West ever since the end of World War II more than thirty years earlier and hopes of reunification seemed destined to remain unfulfilled. (Few people in 1979 could have predicted that the Berlin Wall would fall in only ten years time). Maria, who sells herself to an American for nylon stockings and cigarettes and is later seduced by a capitalist, can therefore be seen as symbolising the flashy and prosperous if rather soulless West Germany, while Hermann, held prisoner by the Soviets, represents the Communist East.

The director Rainer Werner Fassbinder was one of the leading members of the "New German Cinema" group of auteurs of the late sixties, seventies and eighties. He had the reputation of being an "arthouse" director, but this film is one of his more approachable works. Despite numerous clashes between Fassbinder and his collaborators, clashes which led to an acrimonious lawsuit which was to continue even after the director's death, it was both a critical and a commercial success in West Germany and, despite its political subtext, was also shown in cinemas in the East.

Many European films from the Cold War years have since lost much of their relevance, but this one still remains watchable today. The lovely Hanna Schygulla, who had earlier appeared in some of Fassbinder's other films such as "Effi Briest", succeeds in making Maria a brilliantly realised character and in persuading us of the central truth of the film, namely that, whatever her relationships with Bill and Karl, it is Hermann who is really her true love and that in her heart she stays true to him. She reminds us that "The Marriage of Maria Braun" is not just a film about post-war Germany, and certainly not just a film about politics, but also a human drama with a very human character at its centre. 6/10
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5/10
An intelligent but strangely lifeless allegorical work
Red-Barracuda14 June 2011
A woman uses every means possible to survive hardship in post-war West Germany. In doing so she becomes financially successful but loses her soul in the process.

The Marriage of Maria Braun is a film that operates on two different levels. On the one hand in can be seen as a look at one woman's struggle against adversity in the hardships of the post war years. While on another, the film can clearly be read as a critique of the way the new Germany forgot it's awful past and sold it's soul in order to prosper in what would become known as the German Economic Miracle. This latter reading can be determined by reading the main narrative as an allegory in which Maria Braun represents the new Germany. She begins by prostituting herself to the Americans and ends very wealthy but emotionally dead; she forgets her past quickly in order to concentrate on her future.

There is no doubt that Rainer Werner Fassbinder put together a clever allegorical film here. And there is also no doubt that Hanna Schygula is very good in the lead role. But I did have difficulty with empathising with the people in this story, as none of them were particularly likable. Perhaps that was the point of course. But, whatever the case, the film left me cold unfortunately.
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8/10
The Marriage of Maria Braun. To be just as cold as required
louiebotha20 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The Marriage of Maria Braun (MMB) is about a German girl (Maria) getting married to a German soldier (Herman Braun) just at the ending of the war. After being married for half a day and a night, Herman is send to the front again. To make ends meet, Maria starts working at a bar for mainly American soldiers and get to know a black soldier. She got word that Herman died at the front, and things develop between her and the American soldier. Herman walks in on them, in bed, and after a confrontation between him and the American, Maria killed the American. Herman admits to the murder, ends up in jail and Maria vows to wait for him. The country is in shambles; one sees people leaving everything that they are busy with for a cigarette. There are food shortages. It is in short, a time of survival of the fittest.

Basically this film projects Maria's attitudes - those attitudes she permits herself under the mentioned circumstances, as a metaphor for Germany's loss of soul after they lost the war, and how it proceeds to rebuild itself. For example, Maria has the following conversation with a peddler (played by Fassbinder himself); the peddler tries to sell her an excellent copy of Kleist and she remarks that "Kleist burns out to quickly, it does not provide enough heat for the cold". The peddler answers "That's another way to look at it. Right now, it's probably the correct way".

Maria meets a French/German business man, Karl Oswald after she bargains her way into the first class train compartment. She decides to get involve with Karl, "You're not having an affair with me; I'm having an affair with you". She also takes responsibility in the company, and after a while has the complete trust of the firm. When Karl says "I suppose we'll just have to wait for a miracle" she replies "I prefer making miracles – then wait for them". In her own words, she has become the "Mata Hari of the economic miracle".

In a lot of Fassbinder's films he tried to expose the psychological processes which lie behind social mechanisms (see Freud); in other words, he liked pointing his camera at the bullsh*t, the false social mechanisms, the pretending. The direct approach Maria takes in this film is successful to convey this ideology. For example, she phones Karl and when he picks up the phone her request is straight to the point "I need someone to sleep with". As Fassbinder said "the emotions people felt did not exist at all and were only a kind of sentimentality which we thought we needed to be properly functioning members of society". He also remarked that his films are anti emotional.

I particularly liked the scene when Karl and Maria meet in the Munich restaurant (apparently, frequently visited by Hitler himself). Maria appears in control and Karl a bit on the down side, as if Maria's 'brutal honesty' wears him out, as if he is not completely up to the situation anymore. Karl says "I have to tell myself over and over that I love life". Maria replies "That's life isn't it. As if we signed a contract to enjoy life. And then we go out to eat and talk about food". I guess this is also about Fassbinder attitudes on relationships, to never submit completely to anyone. And why would you, if the central matter of most of his films is about "What love becomes in this society – a commodity, an instrument of power, a weapon."

It was remarked that it is typical Fassbinder to have the scenes with Maria and Betti walking in expensive dresses in the ruins after the war - with these clothing essentially the wrong period. What I think he wanted to portray here were those attitudes, when you feel bad, that "you can always put on your make up and face the day looking great". But, Fassbinder was not interested in perfection. Any mistakes made in a film could just be corrected in the next project. Since he completed films (approximately 4 a year) the way other people rolled cigarettes, it is not peculiar that this film has some very bad scenes. Peter Marthesheimer, who wrote most of the script, mentioned that Fassbinder likely dreamed up the whole scene with Maria and the American in the park, overnight.

Hanna Schygulla is brilliant as Maria. Mostly, she just stares bluntly into the camera. In Maria's own words "It is a bad time for emotions. But, I like it like that".

There are different opinions about the end. After Karl died of a hart attack, Herman finally shows up. (Herman left for Australia after he got out of prison, to "become human again".) After the testament is delivered (made out to her and Herman in half), Maria forgets to close the gas on the stove when she lights her cigarette, and blow her and Herman up. For me it is obvious that she just did that by accident. At the same time, she must have been rattled when her dreams finally seem about to come true. She must have felt as if she was not herself anymore. She felt as if she had outlived herself.
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Maria, a metaphor for Germany SPOILER
mafernandez24 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Fassbinder's opening scene is an excellent example of the female lead character, Maria Braun, becoming a metaphor for the German nation. A baby cries in the background as Maria and her soon to be husband dodge exploding rubble from a wall which had a picture of Hitler on it. Explosions continue as Maria takes cover on the ground, surrounded by destruction and chaos she is helpless yet alive. Maria gives the impression of being a strong willed woman, and survivor as she fights to continue her marriage under excruciating circumstances. Even though Maria does not say much in this very short scene, the viewer has subconsciously tucked away this introduction as a possible example for the foundation of the film as foreshadowing of the drama and sadness to come. The madness depicted in this one seen is really dependent on the sound. The sound of machine gun fire and bombing raid siren, the baby crying, and Beethoven playing in the background becomes the intensity and emotion that Maria feels but cannot or will not express. The sounds from this opening scene can also act as narratives paralleling Maria's dreadful life. I find it interesting that the baby's cry is the only sign of young people in the entire film. Although Maria gets pregnant she does not have the child giving one the idea that Germany is unfit for all young life and Maria is unfit for motherhood.
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8/10
A city reflects the internal lives of its citizens.
Benjamin-M-Weilert19 May 2019
While war films are often trite and contrived, the films focusing on reconstruction efforts are always much more interesting. As is the case with "The Marriage of Maria Braun", we see the parallels between the people and the infrastructure of Germany as the exteriors are rebuilt, but the interiors remain in ruins.
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Wirtschaftswunder: Fassbinder's economic miracle
tieman6429 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Rainer Werner Fassbinder's most profitable film, "The Marriage of Maria Braun" tells the tale of an upwardly mobile, independent Maria Braun (Hanna Schygulla), a woman who uses a combination of business smarts, tenacity and promiscuity to lift herself out of desperation.

Fassbinder was drawn to female characters, and often wrote them well. Here he observes as Braun weasels her way back and forth, buying low cut dresses to impress Americans, learning English, framing her husband and killing men to ensure her future. "It's a bad time for feelings," she says, before worming her way into a German mega-corporation which does big business overseas. From here she turns her back on all outsiders (primarily the United States, which forced debts upon and dismantled industries across post war Germany) and tactically sleeps with her new boss. We then watch as she becomes increasingly wealthy, whilst all around the less fortunate remain burdened with post-war, national guilt. But guilt is precisely what Maria does not allow herself; she crushes all in her path. "I'm a master of deceit," she says, "a capitalist tool by day, by night an agent of the proletarian masses. I am the Mata Hari of the economic miracle."

Quickly it becomes apparent that Maria represents West Germany's own rise out of World War 2's rubble, a nation casting off the chains of an insincere American Occupation and brushing off the ashes of defeat. Braun's not just an opportunist, but delights in saying what everyone wants to hear. She makes promises to every class and every country, but only to curry favour and pursue her own wants. It's a kitchen gas explosion which kills her - and symbolic ends an unholy marriage between east and west - distributing her body in all directions, an event which coincides with Germany's victory in a world-championship soccer match. Germany has been reborn, its socioeconomic progress cannot be contained. It is hungry (we hear Germany literally beating Hungary on a radio football match) and ready to explode onto the world stage.

Contrasted with Wirtschaftswunder, Germany's economic miracle or post-war rise, is a rise in what Fassbinder saw as "everyday", "benign", "soft" fascism. Germany becomes a giant, but the power plays which got her there are precisely those which continue to influence, scar and weight heavy on her own inhabitants. "Is this worth it?" Fassbinder asks. His next film was "The Third Generation", a black comedy about revolutionaries or "terrorists". It plays like the spiritual sequel to "The Marriage of Maria Braun".

8/10 - Worth one viewing.
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6/10
Falls short of it's suggested pedigree
oneloveall1 February 2008
Sporadically this does demonstrate masterful dialog and especially finely crafted direction from the distinguished German filmmaker, but summing it's entirety as a masterpiece feels way overpraised. There seems to be almost as much dead weight being carried around in The Marriage of Maria Braun as there is subtle grace.

Thankfully to aid Fassbinder's articulate work is lead (and apparent muse) Hanna Schygulla. Her transformation, however underhanded in pace, is entertaining to behold and probably one of the stronger female performances of the time. She exudes a sensuality better suited for long pauses then line recitals, but overall does an admirable job through and through.

Purists may revel in it's technical pronunciations and metaphoric finesse, but a certain emotional detachment lingers the entire time- contrary to what the script would imply. Don't let the typical European surprise shock ending and over-theorized allegorical conjecture fool you into calling this a masterpiece, it is still just a reasonably well made journey into the female psyche of post-war Germany.
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9/10
Wow!
chromo26 January 1999
So one person says, "This movie is a beautiful, delicate exploration of West German life after World War II." And the other says, "Former Nazis living in bombed out buildings, and the movie is 'beautiful, delicate'?" And the first sits there nodding, takes another sip of coffee. "I can't explain. Just see it."
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Wonder Woman
birthdaynoodle8 November 2013
'The Marriage of Maria Braun' is German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder's best-known and most financially successful movie and it's not hard to see why: it's a big event, a tour de force. This melodrama tells the story of an audacious, beautiful woman who puts her survival instinct to use during the early post-war era, when capitalist West Germany arose from the ashes. The film begins as she's getting married amidst the chaos of the last day of World War II in 1945, and much of what follows has to do with the peculiar way in which she devotes herself to her absent, yet somehow always present, idealized husband. The character of Maria is fascinating as a person, but it also serves as an allegory for Germany during this period of reconstruction, now generally referred to as the "economic miracle" ("Wirtschaftswunder").

Hanna Shygulla gives a perfect performance as the gorgeous and strong-willed Maria. She and Fassbinder were close and had worked together in many plays and films, including 'The Bitter Tears of Eva Von Kant', in 1972. By the time they made 'The Marriage of Maria Braun' in 1979, four years had passed since their last collaboration, so they both regarded it as a special reunion. To me, the film is a testament of the director's nostalgia and adoration for his diva. He was infamously difficult with many of his actors and actresses, yet is said to have treated Shygulla with a special kind of tenderness, and I believe it shows here.

Fassbinder was openly gay, but married twice. His relationships with his first wife, Ingrid Caven, and Moroccan male lover El Hedi Ben Salem, both important actors in his films, are known to have been especially tempestuous. This pattern of love/hate may reflect on some of the characters in his work. He was accused (perhaps unfairly) by some feminists of being misogynistic and by some gay critics of being homophobic. I haven't watched enough of his films to have an opinion on this. But I sense there's a very particular, mixed energy projected onto the character of Maria Braun, who is both hero and antihero, someone who has an admirable tenacity to overcome adversity, yet is willing to prostitute herself and stop at nothing in order to accomplish her goals. It's this complexity that makes the film interesting. Nothing here is easily spelled out as right or wrong.

'The Marriage of Maria Braun' is the first part of Fassbinder's BRD (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) trilogy, along with 'Veronica Voss' (1982) and 'Lola' (1981), which is made available as a set by the Criterion Collection. ('Veronica Voss' was filmed last, but is meant to be viewed as the second part of the trilogy.)
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Ripped by the Barbed Wire
tedg13 February 2010
Some films you simply watch, and some you allow to settle in the marrow. The real work is in knowing how and which to allow.

I do not allow Fassbinder. I know this is heresy. His energy, and the energy he gave his collaborators is legendary. He is highly visual, in the sense of blocking. He did not understand the nuance of the long form visually so every scene is its own drug hit. Only the commitment lasts the whole project.

This is his most popular film, and the one most associated with the cultural phenomenon he was part of: film contributed in a significant way to the reinvention of Germany (West Germany) into a dynamic synthesis of American cultural values (especially film), German commitment transformed into commerce, and honest, even obsessive introspection. He gave this vision. I believe this happens all the time, but in this case, it was easy to see.

I am annoyed that Herzog is associated with Fassbinder, just because they were countrymen and contemporaries. Herzog looked for the violent charm of place, and captured it violently. He went away from the German soul frequently. Fassbinder captured his energy only, and he simply was not an interesting man.

Students of film will be interested in this, and especially how Fassbinder changed after this when he lost his talented cinematographer.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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8/10
Candy for alternative lovers
kalku17 June 2003
My first Fassbinder was a wonderful experience. Film and alternative cinema (small hall, with uncomfortable seats; public had to wait while filmrolls were changed ) were perfect match.

There were many cliches used in the film, but Fassbinder presented them so cleverly that I found them really amusing. Sound was also brilliant (sometimes back being louder than dialogue).

Everything seemed to be in right place. And I loved the way how after-war-time was presented. Real fun!
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another interesting film
adams0161 May 2003
The beginning of this movie set the stage for the odd scenes that follow. In the opening scene, Maria and her fiance have only one concern during an air raid attack ... finishing their wedding ceremony. Maria's determination to be married even under such awful circumstances proves to be even less understandable as the movie goes one. With her husband off at war, Maria does whatever she has to in order to support herself. For a woman so desperate to be married, she is quick to throw away her "sacred" marriage vows. And without ruining the ending, I'll just say that I believe the scene was intentional!
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not really my kind of movie, but i did enjoy it.
Erb50215 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILER The Marriage of Maria Braun-Fassbinder

They weren't kidding when they said the movie would be rated R by American standards. The movie definitely had some twists to it also. In the beginning, Maria was happy. Her and her husband had just gotten married right before he was sent away. She spent everyday looking for him to get off the train. When Betti's husband told her that Hermann was dead, it didn't take her long to find someone new but she never forgot him in her mind. The day he comes home and finds her about to sleep with another black man, she chooses to show her devotion to Herman by hitting Bill over the head with a bottle until he falls on the bed.

She clearly takes after her mother when it comes to men. She goes home for her mom's birthday, and Maria meets her mom's new `good acquaintance' while she's there. Maria definitely goes from one man to the other with ease. She has no problem talking to Hermann in prison and then going to Mr. Oswald's arms right after. Maria has very extreme emotions. She goes from being calm and mysterious at work to loud and advasive when Oswald calls. She is very outgoing in my opinion. She goes in for a job interview and tells the man that he won't need anyone else after he hires her; she tells Oswald she'll never marry him but she'll be his mistress for the time being. Maria yells at her mother when her mom tries to give her advice, and there are many other situations where I wasn't expecting a reaction like the way she did.

The ending was also interesting. She lights her first cigarette on the stove and turns the stove off. Then she and Hermann both undress, until the door bell rings. She excuses herself to go and get dressed, they show her running water across her arm, she then lights another cigarette and purposefully leaves the stove on. Atleast, I think she left the stove on purposefully this time. She clearly knew to turn off the stove, especially after she did it right the first time. I didn't understand why she ran water over her arm though. Obviously Fassbinder wanted to foreshadow that she was going to try and kill herself, but she seemed very happy at the time. She and Hermann were together again, Oswald was gone and she had his money. I wasn't expecting the ending to be so sudden or so dramatic. The interesting thing about the ending was that first they showed her running the water on her arm hinting that she wanted to kill herself. At the end, she killed herself and Hermann also. I wonder if she was planning on doing that the whole time. Clearly no one knew about her plans to kill herself, and it had never crossed my mind that the movie would end that way before the ending scene. Although after doing my research on Fassbinder, I should have expected something like that to happen at the end. I did like the movie because it was interesting to me. I enjoy shock value in movies also because the can keep your attention. I was also happy that I got to see one of Fassbinder's movies because I think it could help me understand the information I have been reading on him.
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