17-year-old Effi Briest is forced into a loveless marriage with the elderly Baron von Instetten. Living as the aristocrat’s trophy wife, Effi endures her provincial existence unhappily. Because of her husband’s constant traveling, she finds companionship with Major Crampas, a charismatic womanizer.
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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?
According to Schygulla's autobiography (http://digitaldacapo.com/hannaschygulla/de/das-buch.html) she had a nervous breakdown while finishing shooting this movie and even considered giving up acting for good. She took some time off to finish her studies, struggling with writing a final paper on schizophrenia and the link between art and mental illness.
In two minds about this film really. There were times I thought it was average, and times when I thought it was exceptional (them mirror shots!) so it gets a four. It's a film likely to improve with retrospect. Solid drama about the manipulation of youthful naivety. Hanna Schygulla reached her performing apex in this film.
Unusual treatment of a linear narrative, where the narrator is dominant and the images form a moving tableaux illustrating the main events. Ok for a while, but 140 minutes of this monochrome artifice is too much for my taste.
The only good thing about this long-winded drama of manners was the hats. Effie wafts about looking into the far distance, with 70s glossed lips parted invitingly,'spontaneously' offering her gloved hand, and throwing herself at her man's knees until you want to scream. She finally acts like flesh and blood but not before endless scenes of repressed propriety. The end was predictable and didn't arrive soon enough.