Here’s an amazing little tidbit; Rainer Werner Fassbinder has four films on the list, and, thanks to TCM and AMC’s film schedules, availability on Netflix Streaming, and the random number generator I’ve used to pick my films since, I have yet to see a single one, and I have less than 40 films left on the list for me to watch. That’s an astounding bit of happenstance, at least to me. It was only a matter of time until one would pop up, however, and it seems the time is now. I wasn’t sure where would be best for me to start off on Fassbinder’s films, but seeing as the roulette landed on The Marriage of Maria Braun, I can at least be happy that I seem to have landed on the most commercial and accessible one.
The film literally starts with an explosion, as the titular marriage occurs during an air raid on the newly married Maria and Hermann Braun’s city. From there, Hermann goes off to war, and Maria’s rough life of waiting for his return, coupled with the several would-be suitors who drop into her life on the pretense that Hermann has been killed in the war, begins, in ways that can only end in tragedy, especially when Hermann eventually comes back. But that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms, and it’s one you can uncover for yourself. I’ll use that as a segue into what I do want to talk about in regards to this film; is The Marriage of Maria Braun worth your time? Yes, but not in a “must see” way. What struck me about this one was how much it looked, felt, and even sounded like a Hollywood film of the time. I’ve railed on a few films before, foreign and domestic, for being made in certain periods of time and not living up to the standard that Hollywood films of that time would set with their “barometer” pictures. The Marriage of Maria Braun is quite the opposite; it clearly matches that of other well-made films of the late 1970s, despite being a German production and thus largely outside the influences of Hollywood. Fassbinder reportedly took a lot of influence from Douglas Sirk, and made this into quite the melodrama as a sort of tribute, and it shows. Remarkably, I still found this rather watchable, even though melodrama is usually not my thing, so kudos to Fassbinder and his production team for what they do here.
I wasn’t sure how to react to this film. It was so like a regular Hollywood film that I was a bit taken aback, and left with very little to say about it. If it were made in English, it would fit right in with the rest of the pack… and that’s where I run into my biggest problem with this; why is this on the list if it is indeed basically unremarkable? Fassbinder sure doesn’t seem like the kind of director that needs four slots in the Book, and even without having seen the others, I’d wager that this would be the most deserving to be culled. Sure, it’s well made, well shot, well acted, and well put together, but I can say that about dozens, maybe even hundreds of other films on the list, English or otherwise. If you’re a fan of Sirk-style melodramas, this will be right up your alley, and if you do decide to try this one, you’ll probably be able to get through it fine enough. But, there’s not a whole lot of memorability to be found here. It’s not a bad film by any means, but neither is it one you need to run out and see.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10