A terse and unfriendly film in many ways. There are no particularly likeable characters, not even Maria Braun, but nevertheless it captures the imagination and holds its own with a strange atmosphere of post-war Germany. Maria is also a very perplexing and intriguing character with a gravitating onscreen presence. Even though she is cold, she grows under the skin, much the way she does to the men in her life.
Another fine film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder, this shows the lengths that the titular Maria Braun goes to in order to stay alive in post-war Germany while maintaining her marriage to a husband that she spends most of the movie kept apart from. Hanna Schygulla constantly looks as if she has just stepped out of an '80s music video, but she backs up her look with a fantastic central performance.
Yes, it's a fine allegory for post-war Germany and the performances are quite good. However, Fassbinder's most mainstream flick is still not as enjoyable as his more challenging films like PVK or Fear Eats the Soul. And I found myself counting away the minutes, wishing I was watching those instead. Good, but not deserved of it's reputation as one of RWF's finest.
Perhaps I'm missing something, but I found this slow and in places simply poorly acted. The opening is great, but its downhill from there. The issue of Germany's national post-WW2 re-build and how one woman goes about it is relevant and potentially moving, but otherwise perhaps something's been lost in translation? I can't explain the ending. Anyone?
Epic melodrama, an allegory of post-war German emotional supression and laborious rise, but aching with coldness and suffering from lack of introspection. Fassbinder, the analytical, methodical enfant terrible by numbers, and Schygulla, the overwhelming Maria Braun, take the film by storm, a film that substantiates style but neglects depth and soul, rushing an end that uncovers vague references to the past.
Fassbinder's analogy between biographical and political history is brilliant, especially regarding the sound. The comments from the radio - from missing people in the beginning to the discussion about rearmament to the winnig of the World Championship in the end - reflect Maria's development on the personal level. And the camera work of Michael Ballhaus - may he rest in peace - is extraordinary.
"Hurts, does it? In pain, are you? Are they coming up out of their holes, George? All those helpless little blonde girls with frightened eyes. Are they coming out of the rubble? Are you going to give them fags? ... 'Up with their dresses and down with their knickers.' Time has come for roll-call. You can't say you haven't asked for it, old son. Time to part." - Philip Marlow, Singing Detective, ep 3, 36 min mark.
F - with his unflinching rejection of that weakness that makes us prone to self-protective oversimplification - writes complicated characters into complicated situations (the analyses of which often reveal as much about the viewer as the film...) And his Maria, neither "indelible monster"* nor some idealistic victim of post-war circumstance, is that: F's challenge to Germans (et al) to confront real-world complexity.
A drama that comes out mostly as a weary, talkative and exhausting soap opera is overshadowed by Hanna Schygulla's screen presence and performance. There's also charming cinematography and fitting music numbers. And it's concluded in a fashionable way of life's uncertainty and fragile foundations as a comparison between post-war era and life that was supposed to be lived as a paradoxical allegory.
IMO this is simultaneously an existential story about the coming of age and the ever-(de/re)construction of love and oneself, as well as a metaphor about the true dimensions of the post-WWII German economic miracle. Maria Braun dedicated her life to the very same things she betrayed to be forever traumatised yet alive so that she would to come back one day and rejoice--at least so she thought... A masterpiece!
The shocking realization of national German atrocities led to a perhaps natural reaction of withdrawal. So the Germans marched on ignoring the past to produce an economic miracle. Fassbinder's tale essentially portrays this allegorically through the rise of a woman who succeeds spectacularly while somewhat soullessly. Despite the clever allegory the rest of film seemed to lack the best of Fassbiner's edge.