Effi Briest (Hanna Schygulla) is seventeen; she is married off to Baron Geert von Innstetten (Wolfgang Schenck), twenty years her senior. Effi feels lonely in her new home, a secluded place on the Baltic Sea. She is unhappy. Without really admitting this to herself, she is unhappy because despite the sympathy the ambitious man of principles has expressed towards her, she knows that she is not really loved. Whereas the acquaintance with the new county commander, Major Crampas (Ulli Lommel) – to whom her husband also feels friendship – initially brings change, it ultimately leads to confusion. A relationship develops between Effi and Crampas that vacillates between dalliance and passion. With the family Instetten’s move to Berlin, this connection comes to an end. Six years later, Innstetten finds the letters Effi received from Crampas by pure coincidence. He kills Crampas in a duel and repudiates his wife who is also forced to sacrifice her daughter. Due to their rigid moral standards, Effi is prevented from returning to her parents. Her will to live comes to an end, and she dies after one year. —Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation
Rainer Werner Fassbinder (May 31, 1945 – June 10, 1982) was born into a cultured bourgeois family in the small Bavarian spa town Bad Wörishofen. Raised by his mother as an only child, the boy had only sporadic contact with his father, a doctor, after the divorce of his parents when he was five. Educated at a Rudolf Steiner elementary school and subsequently in Munich and Augsburg, the city of Bert Brecht, he left school before passing any final examinations. A cinema addict (“five times a week, often three films a day”) from a very early age, not least because his mother needed peace and quiet for her work as a translator, “the cinema was the family life I never had at home.”
Fassbinder made his first short films at the age of twenty, persuading a male lover to finance them in exchange for leading roles. He also applied for a place at the Berlin Film School (dffb), but was refused. He acted in both his early films: DER STADTSTREICHER (The City Tramp), which also featured Irm… read more
Fassbinder proves that a film about adultery can be compelling without showing any actual adultery. Effi Briest is a great film (the mirror shots are fantastic as always), and now I want to read the novel. Somehow I got a Jane Eyre-ish vibe from this though—could it be all the talk of ghosts?
Fassbinder was determined to bring an adaptation of Fontane's classic novel successfully to the screen and the results certainly justify his efforts as this is one of his most acclaimed films. Each scene is perfectly composed and choreographed and there isn't a wasted shot in the entire film. Schygulla gives her best performance for Fassbinder as the young bride whose marriage to an older man proves unsatisfactory...