Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Marriage of Maria Braun

Quick post before I head off to bed. I have no idea why I'm so drained this week. It's been really frustrating, painful, and stressful, and I think my body is just overwhelmed. It's hard to focus on movies and writing when you feel like you just need to go straight to bed after to work, but alas, I struggle on, for you.

Today I watched The Marriage of Maria Braun, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder in 1979. I was interested in seeing this because I really enjoyed the other movies by this director that I saw for the first time through my project. It was pretty good, although I just personally was having a difficult time with it because I'm so exhausted. I feel really bad when I can't pay attention to something completely because of my mood or physical state, but I guess that's one of the tough things about this project! I really liked the focus on the characters, and the gritty look at life during World War II. It wasn't a heartwarming tale about the human spirit, but a story about how far people will go to get what they want or think that they need.

The movie - Maria gets married and after about one day her husband has to go to war. Once the war ends, she's told that he's killed. She carries on with an American solider that she meets, but her husband suddenly comes home, obviously not dead. Maria kills the American, and her husband confesses to the crime. While he is imprisoned, Maria starts working for and sleeping with a wealthy man whom she toys with. I'll stop there so I don't ruin the whole movie for you.

I liked that Maria was so hard and manipulating. She doesn't try to be coy about it, either, and pretend that she's not doing anything wrong. She knows it and she flaunts it at points in the film. She's brutally honest, you know? I guess I felt like this was a different way to approach the character, because I think I've seen a lot of films where women are manipulative or cold but hide it. They might toy with someone, but they certainly don't go as far as admitting it to their victim. I imagined at some points in the film that Maria wasn't always this way - that it was the after-affects of war that drove her to this place. Her world was destroyed, and her anger shows. She also wants a certain kind of life, war or no war, and she goes after it. I guess I just found her really fascinating and different, because her motivations felt unique (could any of this have been for her husband? He is basically a stranger to her, so I don't really know) and her no-nonsense personality was somehow a little appealing to me. I would think it's because I don't see many female characters like this.

Fassbinder was a pretty cool director, and his career was tragically too short. If you're interested in him, Ebert writes about him in his essay, and compares this film with some of his others. It's a good read. I really do like his harsher view of the world, where people easily become cruel. It must tap into my inner pessimist. In his essay, Ebert points out that even the most gentle of Fassbinder's characters are still "eaten alive" - like the old woman in Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. When I first wrote about that movie, I didn't really focus on the cruelty of the people in the world around the couple that the film is about. It stood out to me more after seeing Maria Braun and noticing his outlook on life a little more. It makes a lot of sense here, in a film that focuses on how war can cause so much pain and cruelty that people become cruel in it's wake. And not even "important" people - just normal, everyday people. Everyone is affected, a message that I found to be really interesting and important.

I so need to head off to bed, but I did like the film. I wish I could have given it a little more of my attention, but we all have our off days (or weeks). I have really liked the other Fassbinder films that I've seen, and this one was no exception. Worth checking out, I think. Let me know if you see it!

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on The Marriage of Maria Braun
Buy it on Amazon

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