To conclude, Fassbinder’s “Die Ehe Der Maria Braun”is an example of a film which the history of West Germany is portrayed.
Throughthe character of Maria Braun is West Germany embodied, along with the manyproblems that came especially in the post-war period for West Germany. The filmdoes represent national identity and national past, using the many charactersas representatives of the historical and social issues that arose as a resultof people who were caught up in this aspect of German history. Upon further evaluation, it is clear thatcorruption is enhanced near the end of the film, through the character ofHermann. He essentially acquired his wealth through the transformation of hiswife into an object that he can, at free will, exchange for his benefit. Inthis case, near the end of the film, Hermann agrees a deal for Oswald’s wealth;Oswald can have Maria until Hermann is dead.
Essentially selling out Maria,this scene can relate back to Germany’s national past. The film conveys thatthe German nation as a whole was a victim of deceit, just as Maria’s dream wasdestroyed. The West German Chancellor is also heard on the radio playing in thebackground. Here, he is exclaiming that Germany will “never re-arm”, and soonafter, claims that it is vital that Germany “must re-arm again”. Essentiallyhere, the Chancellor made a secret agreement to re-arm Germany, further highlightingthe German nation as a victim of deceit.
Therefore, one can conclude that theprosperity of post-war Germany was entirely built on a sequence of falsepremises. In terms of national past,Fassbinder was very concerned about how and if the memories of the darknational past has had an effect on society. In the film, it is clear that thecharacter of Maria can be representative of the past. Jean de Baron made astatement that “the fate of the heroine parallels the fate ofGermany, conquered, corrupted and reconstructed. Maria Braun not onlysymbolises Germany, in Fassbinder’s eyes she is Germany” (Marcia,Landy,2001). A scene worth noting here is the one where Maria kills herromantic partner Bill, the American G.I.
This act can be interpreted as aviolent response to the “re-emergence of a traumatic past”. In this scene,Maria and Bill are interrupted by the unannounced arrival of Hermann, herhusband. Maria kills Bill with a bottle as he and Hermann fight. This violentresponse could be noted as a result of a return of a connection to West Germany’spast. In this case, with Hermann, he was supposed to have been killed, but insteadwas being kept as a “prisoner of war”. One can conclude here that Fassbinderindeed shows that West Germany could cause some emotional stress with regardsto the resolution of its own problematic history.
Furthermore, this explosion atthe end of the film results in the deaths of Maria and Hermann. Throughouttheir lives they were both troubled with the hardships of a loss of identityand the society in which they were engulfed in. In a sense, all of the badenergy surrounding them had disappeared when they died, leaving behind aGermany in safe hands and a good atmosphere. They left behind a Germany whomcelebrated national unity and success, as well as the obvious sporting success.Therefore, one can come to the conclusion that the soundtracks of the film aidin portraying national identity.
In addition to the strugglesof women, the various different soundtracks played throughout the film are agood representation of national identity and national past. In terms ofnational identity, we can explore the end of the film in order to get an understandingof how this is portrayed. The film ends with an explosion, and in the background,we can hear the radio presenter exclaim “Deutschland sind Weltmeister!” To putsome context to this, in 1954, Germany beat Hungary in a football game,resulting in a World Cup victory. The idea that Fassbinder puts across here isthat Germany has once again regained its status in the world through thisvictory in an international competition, leaving behind all sorrows of theGreat Wars and marking a new beginning for Germany. Through sport doesFassbinder display a message of national unity in “Die Ehe Der Maria Braun”. Another aspect of the filmwhich displays how women were perceived in post-war Germany was through herrelationship with the American G.I., Bill.
To put this into context, at thetime, American occupation of Germany was heavily underway, and there was acontinuous worry that the German women would be deeply involved with some ofthe American soldiers. Through these potential relationships, it is clear thatthis weakens the overall reconstruction of West Germany post-war; through theunmoral acts of the German women. Many goods, such as cigarettes, could betraded with the women for love, seemingly referring to the women as prostitutelike. In the film, Maria’s relationship with Bill coincides with this idea, andis an example of how Fassbinder uses the character of Maria Braun to portrayhistorical developments in West German society. “Die Ehe Der Maria Braun” can also be looked at and analysed through a feminist perspective. It can be said thatthe character of Maria is symbolic of the fate of not only German women butwomen around the world for whom the immediate post war period had brought thekind of autonomy and liberation to.
These women were in thereconstruction period of the late 1940s and 50s and had claimed socialbenefits. Maria becomes a business women through her own struggles for a searchof identity, therefore it can be said that national identity is closely linkedto the struggles of women during the war and post war period. Following on from this point, it is important to gain a historicalcontext of Post-War West Germany. The main aspect in which Fassbinder focused onwas the “Wirtschaftswunder” (Economic Miracle). However, through Fassbinder’seyes it wasn’t viewed as entirely positive. He saw it as a representation of howthe Nazis continued to obtain a powerful stance in society, something which hefelt was being ignored by the general public at the time.
Here, Fassbinder purposely utilizes Maria’sidentity in order to represent the German situation as a whole, furtherhighlighted through a radio broadcast on Maria’s journey home. It reads a nameas “Alder, first name unknown”. Here, Fassbinder implies that it isn’t just theperson searching for identity, but it is also Germany trying to find itselfagain after the havoc of the War. The idea of seeking identity is pivotal inthis film. A scene worth mentioning here is the black market scene. Maria’smother hears her coming home and asks “Is that you, Maria?” (Film, black marketscene, Mum’s line). This question is the first of many instances in which Mariais being questioned about her identity.
This is the case for Oswald, Maria’sFrench/German businessman/lover. He, along with many other characters in thefilm, notices how Maria has changed in terms of personality, becoming foreignto her new identity as a “successful self-made professional woman”. “DieEhe Der Maria Braun” is both a melodrama, dealing with a woman struggling tosucceed in a man’s world, and the story of the age in which she lives.According to Fassbinder, Germany had a chance to “set up a state, which couldhave been more humane and freer than any German state before it” (Fassbinder,1984).
In other words, Germany had the chance to become a true democracy. Thisidea presented by Fassbinder is evident in the film in the scene with Maria andHermann at the registry office, with Maria’s clearly enunciated “Ja” (Film,registry office scene, Maria’s line). It is, however, clear that by the end ofthe film, society seemed to be drifting away from resolving any problems, withoutchanging anything.
Fassbinder’s thoughts on the country’s development can behighlighted through Hermann, in the scene where his final word “Nein” (Film,kitchen scene, Hermann’s line) is shouted to Maria in the kitchen. The pointFassbinder links here is the fact that Germany has gone down a wrong path andin doing so, failed to establish a new identity. In this period of time, Fassbinder’s portrayalof the German nation post-war is seen as not highly ambiguous. The “structurallymotivated ambiguity” (Elsaesser, 1996) reaches further out than the question ofwhether or not Maria’s death is “the result of an accident or a deliberateaction”, but rather it is “rooted in a complex discourse on Germany’ssovereignty and identity after the war in which private emotions and actionsare reflected in public developments and vice versa” (Uecker, 2001). Therefore,one can come to the assumption that for the character of Maria Braun, in termsof her identity, it will remain in piece, so long as her marriage remains intact.Maria’s husband, Hermann Braun, feels that he has to destroy her independencein order to retain a state of mental peace. This “betrayal” by Hermanncorrelates to West Germany’s return to normality, and in doing so, destroysMaria’s independence. This emptiness that Maria experiences can be concluded asa result of the post-war situation of Germany (Uecker, 2001).
When Germany capitulated at the end ofWorld War II, it found itself confronted by a massive identity crisis; thefirst attempts at a democracy, the Weimar Republic, had ended in disaster, the ensuingNazi dictatorship had thrust the country into destruction not witnessed sincethe 30 Years’ War. What was known as the “Stunde Null”, or Zero Hour, had theGerman people stood at a crossroads. The German film industry declared theirintention to make films that would address more directly the issues of the day,confront the Nazi past and attempt to define anew the nature of Germanidentity. Rainer Werner Fassbinder emerged as the most significant film-makerof this movement. Throughout all his films, Fassbinder examines what it is tobe German, and this reaches its culmination in the so-called BRD film: Die Eheder Maria Braun (The Marriage of Maria Braun). In this essay I will discuss theforces which shape West German culture in the film, along with an assessment ofhow significant a part national identity plays.