Martha (Margit Carstensen) is in her early thirties, single and quite attractive. She spends her vacation with her father (Adrian Hoven) in Rome. While they stroll through the city, her father suffers a heart attack and dies. Outside the German embassy in Rome, Martha meets a stranger in his mid-forties. Both are fascinated by the encounter. Back in Germany, she sees the stranger from Rome again at a wedding. His name is Helmut Salomon (Karlheinz Böhm). Martha soon falls for his charisma and his dominant personality. The two get married. On the honeymoon, Helmut begins with his tender but unforgiving “education” measures towards Martha. After their return he rents a fabulous mansion for the two of them and thereby initiates Martha’s isolation. After only a few days, he gets rid of the telephone and resigns from her the job in the library for her. Martha is supposed to give up all outside contacts in order to be there exclusively for him. His tenderness – in fact not free from Sadism – is more like rape. When Helmut is traveling on business, Martha secretly meets Herr Kaiser (Peter Chatel), a young colleague from the library, so she has at least one person to talk to. Helmut gets suspicious. Martha feels threatened and fears that Helmut wants to kill her. During a car ride with Kaiser she suddenly suspects that her husband is following them. In total hysteria she urges Kaiser to go faster. The car skids and dashes downhill. Kaiser is dead. Martha survives the accident but is paralyzed. Helmut collects her from the hospital in a wheelchair. Now he has her all to himself and she him. —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's film is based on a story by Cornell Woolrich, author of Rear Window, and Hitch himself would have been proud of the torments he inflicts on his leading lady. Margit Carstensen is sublime as the woman who marries a sadist and is slowly stripped of her dignity and freedom. As her husband, Peeping Tom's Karlheinz Bohm is chilling. I expected this to be good but it's much more than that. It's a masterpiece..
From Vincente Minnelli's Madame Bovary (1949); featuring Jennifer Jones; cinematography by Robert H Planck. From F.W. Fassbinder's Martha