The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama, Psychological Drama, War Drama  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - West Germany  |   MPAA Rating - R
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The first of a trilogy about women in post-World War II Germany, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978) turns the melodramatic story of the titular heroine's climb up the economic ladder into a historical allegory about both the post-war German "economic miracle" and 1970s West Germany. Evoking Joan Crawford's forceful lead in Mildred Pierce (1945) and the visually stylized 1950s melodramas of Douglas Sirk, Fassbinder combines theatrically composed lighting and camera moves with accurate recreations of war and post-war settings, decor, and dress to dramatize Maria Braun's rise at the expense of her integrity. Driven by the memory of her brief marriage to create her own "economic miracle" by any means, Maria's final betrayal by her husband is linked through photos and radio broadcasts with the moral betrayal of Germany by its postwar leaders. The most prominent (and prolific) director of the 1960s-'70s New German Cinema, Fassbinder finally had his first international box-office success with Maria Braun, confirming his place as one of the most striking filmmakers of the 1970s. Hanna Schygulla won Best Actress prizes from the Berlin Film Festival and the New York Film Critics' Circle for her performance as Maria.