Friday, October 29, 2004

The Marriage of Maria Braun

This week for class I had to watch the movie, The Marriage of Maria Braun. I actually had to watch for class last year too, so clearly it's the movie of choice for film scholars. Lately I've been watching a ton of foreign films, be it in German film class, or on my own with Wong Kar Wai's stuff and Cowboy Bebop. Well, this movie was foreign too, and it was great.

The movie's about a woman in post WWII Germany. Her husband is missing, presumed dead, and she has to go on with her life. It's a huge movie, spanning ten years, with a bunch of characters and subplots, which I love. The opening sequence is one of the most pop openings ever, especially impressive considering it's a film made in the 70s. It opens on a picture of Hitler which blown away, along with the wall it's hung on, revealing Maria getting married as the city is being bombed, papers flying in the air, buildings falling to the ground.

What makes the movie work is the direction. Fassbinder uses color brilliantly, and can expertly manipulate mood with his filmmaking. The movie feels extremely modern, despite being set in the 40s and made in the 70s. The story of the film is great, but it's the filmmaking that makes it a really special movie.

I've had to watch a lot of Fassbinder's movies for class, and this is easily the best of them. What this has that his previous movies didn't is scope. The personal relationships aren't that far removed from a movie like The Merchant of Four Seasons, but the difference is that this movie is set in a time of turmoil. When Maria seduces Oswald, it's not about feelings, it's about trying to survive. The entire movie is about seeing people dehumanized, forced to resort to their basest instincts in order to survive.

Just as the opening sequence is incredibly pop, the closing is too. This movie ends in such a way that you're sitting there just dazed, considering the implications of the ending. Any movie that leaves you so confused, not about what happened plotwise, but about what exactly motivated the characters to do it is worth watching. I'd rather be left thinking after a movie is over then having everything tied up perfectly neatly.

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