The first shot of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's The Marriage of Maria Braun you see an allied bombing raid during a small wedding ceremony still in progress, as the bride and groom are scrambling for safety. It is the year 1943 and the groom is a soldier named Hermann Braun who must return to the front that very next morning, leaving his new wife Maria Braun now alone to survive in Post war Germany. Within time Maria will begin to use her beauty, sexuality and brains to survive the horrors of the war while her husband is off fighting. She will have multiple affairs with several men and will be bluntly honest to her lovers that she is a married woman who will always be waiting for the return of her husband. The story follows Maria's journey from about 1946 to the mid-1950s and within that time she will manipulate her boss by using sex to have him support her financially. It won't be long before Maria is in full control over her bosses company, becoming much wealthier, moving into a luxurous new home, buying fashionable clothes, and eating at expensive restaurants. Over the years this woman will slowly become domineering, manipulative, strong and cruel, and become much more disconnected from her friends and family. Maria is so loyal to a husband of less of a day and a half that she will kill for him and emotionally destroy other men to the brink of their suicide. When Maria's husband finally does return to her, Maria will come to the realization that not only does she no longer need this man emotionally or financially, but that the two of them never even knew one another at all. The remarkable German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder directed The Marriage of Maria Braun at the end of his short and brilliant career before his tragic death at the young age of 37 from heart failure resulting from a lethal interaction between sleeping pills and cocaine. His work is considered one of the large influences of the New German Cinema which included around 30 features and several television films. Most of Fassbinder's characters inhabit a tragic world of sex, money and power that usually leads them to murder, sadism and self-destruction. He's made several masterpieces during his short career but I believe The Marriage of Maria Braun to be his greatest and most poignant film. The character of Maria Braun is one of the most fascinating women in the history of the cinema, as Maria's gradual change from a desperate poor woman to a domineering wealthy beauty is quite extraordinary. All the men in Maria's life are demanding to her every need; with her being cruelly unmerciful and amused by their male weaknesses. Many critics have labeled The Marriage of Maria Braun as a story of sexual politics, which explores the power structures of the female sex, and how a woman like Maria learns to adapt and take on the roles of men during a time of war, to survive and thrive in the postwar years of Germany.
The film starts in Germany in 1943 as you see a portrait of Hitler getting blown away from an allied bomb attack at a civil registry building during a small wedding ceremony. "Do you, Hermann Braun, take this woman to be your wife?" asks the preacher to a bride named Maria Braun (Hanna Schygulla) and the groom named Hermann Braun as he finishes their marriage vows during the bombing. "I do." Hermann says. They are at the civil registry as they all cover from the attack. Maria has the preacher sign the marriage papers before they all run for cover.
After about half a day and a whole night together, Hermann must return to the front to fight. Months pass as Maria and her mother move in together in a small flat that looks like it was carved out of a bombed building. Maria and her mother are struggling for money and one day Maria arrives home to tell her mother that nobody wants to buy her wedding dress because there are too many girls and not enough men.
Maria believes her husband Hermann is dead even though every day she walks the railway stations among many other wives with a large sign with a photograph of him. One of the women asks Maria how long she was married and Maria says, "I still am married." The woman says "I mean...it didn't last long, did it?" Maria answers, "Yes, it did. Half a day and a whole night."
The people in the area are all starving and desperate and when an American GI tosses away a cigarette butt several people rush to grab it. While in a diner a GI makes a rude comment and so Maria walks up to his table and tells him off in which the GI apologizes by giving her several packs of his cigarrettes.
At the home Maria's mother is dressing her elderly father and she says to him, "the mistake people make is to love one person all their lives. If we don't have potatoes we eat turnips. If we have no turnips, we eat gruel. But in love, there's only one man, and when he goes to war and is dead five months later, you have to mourn for the rest of your life." Maria returns home and and bribes her mother for a brooch from the cigarettes she received earlier from the American G.I. Later the next day Maria takes the brooch and heads to a black marketeer near town (played by Fassbinder) in which he offers her a rare edition of books. Maria says "Books burn too fast, and they don't give any heat."
Maria decides to look for work and applies for a job in a nightclub for American soldiers. The nightclub ironically is located in the exact high school gym where Maria once attended school. When walking in she tells the owner to give her the position but not before being ordered not to wear her wedding ring at work and to get a health certificate from her loyal doctor who seems to also be a penicillin addict. That night her mother helps sew a dress for her new job complaining that her father would be disappointing knowing Maria is working as a bar-girl.
Maria is once again at the railway station hoping for the arrival of her husband Hermann. Maria looks at another happy couple embracing and Maria finally gives up hope on her husband ripping off his photograph and tossing the sign under the track of the train.
That evening at the bar Maria's friend Betti says that Maria's husband is probably dead and that her love for him is only a feeling and not the truth. Maria says, "Sure love's a feeling. And a great love is a great feeling and a great truth." Betti then points out a black American G.I. in the bar who is greatly attracted to Maria and so Maria asks the soldier named Bill to dance with her.
The two spend time with one another and Bill teaches her some words in English. When arriving home one day Maria hears news that Betti's husband Willi arrived home safely but Willi unfortunately tells Maria that her husband Hermann is dead. Maria heads to the bar to be alone that very night and she confronts Bill again saying, "My man is dead," as the two start to dance.
They become a couple as the two of them picnic with Betti, Willi, and Maria's mother and grandfather day's later. "It's nice being with you Bill," Maria says as the two of them are nude massaging each other's skin in her bedroom.
Bill offers Maria a wedding ring but she doesn't except saying, "I'm very fond of you and I want to be with you, but I'll never marry you. I'm married to my husband." When Maria is at her doctors she asks him if he will deliver her baby when she has one. He asks her if she has a father for the boy and Maria says, "Can you have a baby without one? The father's black, and my son will be called Hermann."
One afternoon Bill carries Maria up her stairway and into her bedroom to celebrate Maria's pregnancy. When in the bedroom undressing Maria's husband Hermann suddenly arrives home after escaping from a Russian prisoner of war camp and enters the room behind them. "Hermann?" Maria casually says when she finally notices her husband watching quietly at the bedroom door. "Look, Bill. It's Hermann." Maria runs up to greet her husband and Hermann angrily smacks her down on the floor because of her affair. Bill still nude runs over and consoles Maria as she is lying on the floor as Hermann quietly sits down and smokes a cigarette on the bed. Suddenly Hermann angrily starts ripping up the bed sheets and when Bill tries to calm him down the two of them get into a physical confrontation and Hermann breaks down and starts to cry. Maria slowly gets up during all of this and smashes a glass over Bill's head instantly killing him.
Maria is later taken to trial on the soldier's death saying, "I was fond of Bill, but I loved my husband." Her husband then steps in and lies taking the blame for the murder and is sent to prison. Months pass as Maria is now on her own as her husband is in prison for a crime she committed and Maria also loses her baby because it was stillborn. Her doctor tells her if the black child would have survived it wouldn't have been easy for the child and not for her as well. Maria tells him, "I never said I wanted to have it easy."
One day Maria crashes a first class train to purposely meet a wealthy manufacturer named Karl Oswald who sat out the war in comfort and has returned to take over the business from his faithful accountant Senkenberg. To meet him in First Class she steals a wealthy passenger's luggage and enters the restroom to put on more expensive clothing to empress this wealthy manufacturer. She than sneaks her way into First Class and sits down across from Oswald as she introduces herself.
When Oswald explains to Maria what he does for a living the two are suddenly harassed with vulgar and obscene words by an intoxicated American G.I. Maria tells the soldier in English, "to answer your question I'm really the best you'd be fucked by although I doubt you will ever get the chance when I've kicked you in your bloody old prick in your bloody balls which will drop off. And now sir, you better fuck off immediately otherwise I'd be forced to call the military police to get you bloody old son of a bitch in jail!"
Oswald is greatly impressed by Maria's personality and he asks her what he said to the G.I. and she tells him, "I said you were Karl Oswald of textile fame, that you like to travel and that you want to use the time to think." When Oswald asks her how she learned good English she tells him, "in bed." Oswald likes her strength and spontaneity and invites her to the dining car to discuss some business matters.
Eventually Oswald gets Maria a job as a personal advisor working beside his book-keeper Senkenberg. Maria's mother worries about her daughter's new job questioning what Oswald wants out of her and her friend Betti even notices some changes with her childhood friend. Maria tells Betti, "I'm sorry Betti. I guess I've changed a lot." Betti says, "looking at you, nobody could tell what you've been through."
Maria always makes time to visit her husband in prison and tells him that she is building a house for the both of them. Her husband is shocked by how his wife is making out without her saying, "Your beautiful...and intelligent...and I love you." In a strange foreshadowing Maria says, "I may change in the next few years."
During a business meeting between Oswald's company and an American company the deal they are trying to negotiate is about to go bad and so Maria asks Oswald if she can step in and say something to his American customers. She tells Oswald, "Give me half an hour alone here. I don't know a thing about business. But I know what German women want, and I know about nylon and woven fabrics. And I know a lot about the future. I'm a specialist in that."
Senkenberg doesn't like the idea that Maria is somewhat running the company because she has no business experience but Maria has Oswald under her spell. The business transaction is successful (it's never shown what Maria did) and the three celebrate having dinner that evening with Senkenberg not very happy on how the company is going. Oswald tells him, "You're the best accountant, the most conscientious financial manager, but you haven't a mark's worth of imagination." Maria steps in and sticks up for Senkenberg saying, "That's no reproach. In your profession, imagination would be detrimental to business. Someone must hold onto the money, vouch for finances, secure credit."
After Senkenberg leaves Oswald and Maria alone Oswald offers Maria a drink but she quickly offers to sleep with him. The very next morning at work Oswald walks into Maria's office and invites Maria out to the country for the weekend. Maria coldly turns down the offer and continues typing on her typewriter without even remotely giving Oswald any attention. Oswald tells Maria, "last night you were a different person." Maria says, "last night I was Maria Braun who wanted to sleep with you. Today I'm Maria Braun who wants to work for you." Oswalt asks her if she is afraid that people will think he is having an affair with her and Maria says, "I don't care what people think. I care what you think. I don't want you to think you're having an affair with me...when, in truth, I'm having one with you."
Before Oswald is about to leave the room Maria quickly brings up her salary and asks for a raise because she knows what her work is worth to him. Oswald reluctantly agrees as she seduces him with a soft kiss. When Oswald asks her again about the weekend trip she coldly says, "on Saturday you'll be going to the country on your own."
When visiting her husband Hermann again in prison Maria decides to be completely honest with him about her new job and her love affair with her boss. She tells Hermann how she is dependent on her boss and how she wasn't forced into it. She brought up the sex before her boss could so she had the upper hand in the relationship. Her husband asks her if this is how most people are between each other outside now being so cold and unemotional. Maria says, "I don't know how other people are. It's not a good time for feelings. But that suits me. That way, nothing really affects me."
When arriving home Maria sees Oswald is there waiting for her with flowers and chocolates and when she is given them she cruelly throws them in the garbage saying, "you have no claim on me." Oswald follows her up to her apartment and they sleep together once again. After sex Oswald tells her how he feels like a schoolboy. Maria says, "That's what you are: a dear, silly little schoolboy." When Oswald asks her why she didn't want to come out to the country Maria says it's because he would have proposed to her. She was correct by that statement and Oswald asks how she knew he was going to do that. She says, "with schoolboys you know those sorts of things. I'll never marry you. But if you want...I'll be your mistress."
At a social business function Maria is with Betti's husband Willi as he complains about how him and Betti's relationship is falling apart. He tells Maria how she's not like his wife and that she has lightheartedness. Maria tells Willi, "I have to be lighthearted so Hermann has something to look forward to and be proud of. A man can't look forward to or be proud of a wife who's miserable."
In one of the few scenes in the film where you actually see Maria let out some buried pain and emotion, Maria goes to visit her friend Betti and Maria starts to cry. When Betti asks her friend why she is crying Maria is shocked by her emotions. "I'm crying," Maria says. "What do you know...I'm crying. I don't know why." Oswald goes to see Maria's husband Hermann in prison. When seeing him Hermann asks why he is there and Oswald says, "I wanted to meet the man she loves."
Maria and Betty return to the bombed-out building of their old school that they attended, where they climb up rubble-blocked staircases in their high heels, peering down through twisted beams and entering the room that was their classroom when they were younger. Later that day Maria visits her mother to wish her a happy birthday and meets a new lover of her mother's who is much younger in age. That evening everyone heads over to Maria's mother's home and celebrates her birthday as they all take a family picture with Oswald taking the picture.
During the party Betti tells Maria how unhappy she is with Willi and the only thing she knows how to do in the relationship is gain weight.
One day at the prison visiting Hermann Maria decides to give her husband part of her fortune. Hermann says to her, "It's your money and your life, Maria. I live my life and allow no one to give me a different one." Maria says, "but it's your money. I've led this life for you...for us." Hermann ignores her and asks the guard to be taken back to his cell.
One afternoon during work Maria gets a phone call that her husband is being released the following week which greatly confuses her and Maria doesn't know how to exactly feel. On his release day Maria goes to pick up Hermann at the prison but he already left and taken a taxi leaving a note for her saying, "Maria, I'm going away to Australia or Canada. We'll live together when I've become a human being. We'll have to wait that long. A rose every month will remind you of me. Hermann."
Oswald gets worried when Maria doesn't return home and is relieved to find her at work in her office working late. Oswald tries to get a word with Maria; and as he talks trying to connect with her, she continues to coldly enter numbers into an adding machine and not once give him eye contact. Time passes and every month like her husband promised he delivers a rose to Maria and she keeps each one.
In time Maria becomes more successful and wealthy and she eventually builds a house for herself in the suburbs. Maria's mother is worried about her daughter and how much Maria has changed feeling like a stranger to her. Maria's mother is also frustrated with how cold and inconsiderate her daughter has become not even offering her mother to live with her in her big new house. Maria says, "you know very well I got this house so I could be alone. I have to pay for my sins." Her mother yells and says, "you and your roses and your power of attorney and your money! One rose a month! That's all she hears from him. It's like dying once a month!"
During this time Maria starts becoming more cruel to others especially her receptionist; snapping on her and ordering her to stop repeating certain orders she asks for her to do. One day in the office Oswald calls and Maria orders the receptionist to lie and say she is not there. And when the receptionist is ordered to tell Oswald that Maria doesn't want to have lunch with him Oscar hangs up which greatly hurts the receptionist for having to tell him that. Maria cruelly laughs and mocks her receptionist and says to her "that was the funnest thing I've seen in a long time. Stop crying now. Call him back and tell him Maria Braun is possessed by the devil. And if he wants to have lunch with the devil, he can meet me at the Bastei at 1:00."
That afternoon Oswald goes to meet Maria at the Bastei as she is already sitting down eating. Oswald tells her that he feels she is bored with him and she says that she is. He asks her then why they are there sitting together and Maria says, "because you were brought up well, and I pretend I was." After spending the day with Willi visiting the bombed out building of her old school like she did with Betti Maria returns home to find another rose from her husband on her door step. When walking in the house she turns the stove on to light her cigarette (foreshadowing of the ending) then calls up Oswald and coldly says, "this is Maria Braun. I need someone who'd like to sleep with me." She then quickly hangs up the phone before Oswald can even answer her proposition.
The next day Senkenberg walks into Maria's office crying and informs Marie that Oswald is dead because of heart failure and yet the housekeeper said he had a smile on his face. That evening Maria gets completely drunk at a fancy restaurant and when trying to leave she stumbles but not before throwing up; as you see in the forground a woman being groped and fondled by another man.
The next morning Marie wakes up at the dinner table after a night of heavy drinking with lipstick smeared all over her face. Suddenly the doorbell rings. When answering the door with her lipstick all smeared her husband Hermann finally returns and gives her a hug.
After the sudden arrival of her husband, Maria excitedly dresses in sexy langeria for her husband and runs upstairs to draw him a bath. When she comes back down she is fully dressed and when he asks her why she changed she tells him she has to get to know him first saying, "and then when you remind me of someone I love I won't need a dress anymore."
Hermann tells her that since he arrived home they haven't even kissed. She says, "patience, Hermann, patience. We were only married for two days. And are days are long." She suggests they should take a trip up to the country as she lights up the stove to light her cigarette and leaves the gas stove gas running. She gets undressed and says to Hermann that she wants to make a contract that everything she has will be his. He dismisses all that believing that is not what is important in their relationship and she says, "But I'm a rich woman. And I shall certainly inherit a fortune."
All the money and success doesn't interest her husband though and the only thing that interests him is the two of them finally being happily together. Senkenberg suddenly arrives with an attorney to Maria's home to talk about Oswald's will and when the will is read off to Maria she is told that everything will be given to her and her husband Hermann Braun because Hermann loved the same person Oswald did.
After Senkenberg and the woman leave Maria goes into the kitchen to light her cigarette and ignites the gas which kills the two lovers. Before and after the explosion you can hear the exciting climax of a sports game playing on the radio in the background in which you hear the announcer shouting, "It's over!! It's over!"
NEW GERMAN CINEMA
The legendary director Rainer Werner Fassbinder was one of the major director's who contributed in the New German Cinema movement which lasted throughout the late 1960's to the 1980's. This movement was a sudden emergence of new generation German director's who produced a number of small low budget avantgarde films that caught the attention of art house audiences and enabled these directors into better financed productions which were even backed by the US studios. Such directors involved in the New German Cinema movement besides Rainer Werner Fassbinder were Werner Herzog, Alexander Kluge, Volker Schlondorff, and Wim Wenders; as these young set of filmmakers sparked a renaissance in German cinema and their success encouraged other German filmmakers to make such quality stories. The New German Cinema was influenced by other earlier film movements like the French New Wave, British Kitchen Sink realism, and Italian Neorealism with references to the well-established genres of The Hollywood cinema. These films mostly contained low budget stories that represented contemporary German life as several of these filmmakers were specifically concerned with asking questions about national identity, German history, and the gritty and bleak experiences of modern struggles.
As a reaction to the artistic and economic stagnation of German cinema, these group of young German film-makers issued the Oberhausen Manifesto on 28 February 1962, which was a group that provocatively and confidently declared that "The old cinema is dead. We believe in the new cinema". The Oberhausen Manifesto was a rejection of the existing German film industry and their determination to build a new industry founded on artistic excellence rather than commercial dictates; most famously with Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Fear Eats the Soul and Wim Wender's Wings of Desire.
The idea for The Marriage of Maria Braun can be traced to the collaboration of Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Alexander Kluge on the unrealized television project The Marriage of our Parents (Die Ehen unserer Eltern). Fassbinder worked on a draft screenplay together with Klaus-Dieter Lang and Kurt Raab and presented it in the early summer of 1977 to his longtime collaborator Peter Märthesheimer. In August 1977 Märthesheimer and his partner Pea Fröhlich, a professor of psychology and pedagogics, were commissioned to write a screenplay based on the draft together. Although it was Märthesheimer's and Fröhlich's first screenplay their knowledge of Fassbinder's works allowed them to match the screenplay to the characteristic style and structure of Fassbinder's other works. Fassbinder changed only a few details in the completed screenplay, including some dialogue and the end of the film. Instead of Maria Braun committing suicide in a car accident she dies in a gas explosion, leaving it unclear whether she committed suicide or died accidentally.
The producer of the film was Fassbinder's longtime collaborator Michael Fengler with his production company Albatros Filmproduktion. Fengler planned to start shooting the film in the first half of 1978, as Fassbinder's next project Berlin Alexanderplatz was scheduled for June 1978. On his suggestion Fassbinder and Fengler visited Romy Schneider and asked her to play the role of Maria Braun. Due to Romy Schneider's alcohol problems, fickleness, and demands, the role was then given to Hanna Schygulla, her first collaboration with Fassbinder in four years. Shooting began in January 1978 in Coburg and went greatly over-budget. In February 1978 the budget was reaching 1.7 million DM, and two most expensive scenes - the explosions at the beginning and at the end of the film - had not yet been shot. By this time Fassbinder had learned about Fenglers deal with Eckelkamp and the overselling of the film rights. He felt deceived and broke with his longtime collaborator Fengler. He demanded the status of a co-producer for himself and obtained an injunction against Fengler and Eckelkamp. Fassbinder fired most of the film crew, ended the shooting in Coburg at the end of February and moved to Berlin, where he finished shooting the last scenes.
Consequently the biographer Thomas Elsaesser called the production of the film "one of Fassbinder's least happy experiences" and Berling even "one of the decisive self-destructive episodes in Rainer's life". The production was also the last collaboration between Fassbinder and the cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, with whom Fassbinder had previously shot eleven films. Bad-tempered and quarrelsome, Fassbinder shot The Marriage of Maria Braun during the day and worked on the script to Berlin Alexanderplatz during the night. In order to sustain his work schedule he consumed large quantities of cocaine, supplied by the production manager Harry Baer and the actor Peter Berling. According to Berling this was the main reason the film went over the budget, as the cash for the cocaine was coming from Fengler.
Fassbinder is considered one of the greatest German directors of all time and was one of the most imprortant figures in The New German Cinema. He started out with a film titled The Merchant of Four Seasons which introduced a phase of Fassbinder’s film-making, using melodrama as a style to create critical studies of contemporary German life for a general audience. Then he made The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant which was adapted from one of Fassbinder’s plays. It tells a story about a successful fashion designer who is arrogant and who mistreats her lesbian lover. Many of Fassbinder’s films deal with homosexuality, in keeping with his interest in characters who are outsiders to society, but especially in the film The Fox and his Friends where Fassbinder plays the main character; he drew away from most representations of homosexuals in films. In a Year of Thirteen Moons is Fassbinder’s most personal and bleakest work and a personal favorite of mine. It follows the tragic life of Elvira, a transsexual formerly known as Erwin within the last few days before her suicide in where she decides to visit some of the important people and places in her life. Then there is Ali: Fear Eats the Soul which is considered his masterpiece and one of the greatest films of all time. It tells the story of an older German woman falling in love with a young Arabic man and how the two of them have to deal with racial tensions between family and friends. Finally Fassbinder directed a 15 hour German TV series titled Berlin Alexanderplatz and it became his crowning achievement. It was the culmination of all the director’s themes of love, life, hate, and power, about a former convict and minor pimp, who was just released from prison after the murder of his wife.
The character of Maria Braun is one of the most fascinating women in the history of the cinema. Her gradual change from a desperate poor woman to a domineering rich beauty is quite extraordinary. Hanna Schygulla has been in several of Fassbinder's films but I believe this is one of her greatest and riskiest performances. Maria takes advantage of other people's weaknesses and uses her sexuality to get what she wants but she is always honest about doing it. When she was with several of her lovers she always came out and told them that she loved her husband without using any deception or lies. And yet all the men in her life fall greatly in love with her and are demanding to her every need; with her being cruelly amused by the men's weaknesses.
The real victim in this story is Oswald and it is tragic on how Maria preys upon him from the very beginning to get her control over his company. He truly does love Maria and wants to marry her and she coldly mocks his loving gestures, loves to humiliate him and only calls him when she wants sex. She orders him out to eat and when he arrives she is already eating, she takes gifts that he bought for her and rudely throws them out in front of him, and she coldly has quick one-sided phone conversations with him then quickly hangs up without saying goodbye. She is an ideal employee though and even when his accountant Senkenberg at first questions Maria's motive; he even begins to see her importance in the future of their company. Right from the beginning when working for Oswald you can see her take control in many of his business transactions. At one business meeting with an American customer it looks like the American won't budge and Oswald says, "I suppose we'll just have to wait for a miracle." Maria then says, "I prefer making miracles than waiting for them." At that point she translates the english of the customer differently to Oswald because she believes it's what Oswald should hear in order to successfully complete the business transaction.
Betti is one of Maria's great childhood friends who is having a struggling marriage with her husband named Willi who is also a close friend. During most of the film Maria is cold, distant and cruel to everyone around her but when ever she is around her mother, Betti and Willi she seems to be the most human. There are two scenes in the film where Maria goes once with Betti and once with Willi to the bombed out school that her and Betti used to attend when very young. I was wondering why she liked to do this and then I was thinking that maybe the scenery of the bombed out destruction and the crater's of her childhood represent her dreams being destroyed and blown away.
Maria gets so disconnected and cruel with everyone that at one point when seeing her friend Betti she for no reason starts to cry and she seems more shocked than the audience about her character revealing any feelings of emotion. Her obsession with staying married to her husband is very bizarre giving the fact that it is OK for her to have open lovers which she is happy to share with her husband in prison. Even when she seems to care about a man like for instance the black American soldier; she will without thinking attack and harm him just to defend her husband and be by his side. As cruel and mean as she is with Oswald it seems that Maria must feel something for him because of her getting completely trashed at the restaurant the night she hears of Oswald's death. And yet this obsession and promise to stick by her husband and stay married to him no matter what doesn't seem to really bring her much happiness. When her husband finally arrives home to her after so many years apart; the two of them seem very awkward with one another. Maria doesn't even kiss her husband hello and when she dresses up all sexy for him in langeria, she quickly changes back into her normal clothes telling him she has to get to know him first. We never have a scene where we saw the two of them alone together before their marriage so it's hard to know how they interacted with one another. But it feels like the two of them have changed and grown apart during all their years apart. Maria is now independent and successful and is used to not having a man to support her no longer. She is also used to not getting emotionally involved with men so when finally being back with her husband all these years; it feels she not only no longer loves him anymore; but she doesn't even know him and he doesn't know her as well.
A lot of filmmakers label this film as a story of sexual politics in how it shows the power structures of the female sex and how it adapts to economic circumstances to survive. You can look at Maria as a cold-hearted and manipulative bitch and yet you can look at her as a beautiful and confident woman who is taking the few opportunities that were given to her to survive and thrive in the postwar years of Germany. In the time of war Maria takes on the roles of men in which she runs a company and builds her own home. Maria was playing a role that becomes extinct when the war ends, the men return home and peace and order is restored back in society. German film critics responded very positively to The Marriage of Maria Braun and praised the film's combination of artistic values with mass appeal. Hanna Schygulla the actress who played Maria was praised by many film critics. In the Süddeutsche Zeitung on 23 March 1979 Gottfried Knapp wrote that the director gave her a magnificent opportunity to display her acting talent, and that her character, emotions, charm and energy had an enormous effect. The film and Hanna Schygulla were also praised by foreign film critics. In The New Yorker David Denby called Schygulla "an improbable cross between Dietrich and Harlow". François Truffaut commented in 1980 in the Cahiers du cinéma that with this film Fassbinder "has broken out of the ivory tower of the cinephiles", and that the film is "an original work of epic and poetic qualities" influenced by Godard's Contempt, Brecht, Wedekind and Douglas Sirk (who was Fassbinder's all-time favorite director.) The French film critic Jean de Baroncelli discussed the allegorical qualities of the film and wrote that the film presents Maria Braun with a "shining simplicity" as an allegory of Germany, "a character, that wears flashy and expensive clothes, but has lost her soul". The Marriage of Maria Braun was actually the first in what was looked at as Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy, followed by Veronika Voss and Lola; which also follows the story of women during World War II. At the end of The Marriage of Maria Braun Maria goes into the kitchen to light her cigarette and ignites the gas which kills the two lovers. Before and after the explosion you can hear the exciting climax of a sports game playing on the radio in the background in which you hear the announcer shouting, "It's over!! It's over!" You can think that the ending of the film sounds a little melodramatic but Fassbinder was a huge fan of Hollywood soap opera's most especially the work of German Hollywood film director Douglas Sirk . I always wondered if the explosion in Maria's home was done purposely or accidentally by Maria. Maybe she just forgot to turn off the gas and didn't realize it was on when she lit her cigarette. And yet if it was done purposely maybe it was because she had over the years created this perfect home and life for her and her husband. And when her husband finally returned to her reality set in and she realized the dream husband she had always imagined was no longer the dream that came true; and so everything she worked for including her own life no longer had a purpose.