Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Effi Briest, 1974

I had been meaning to catch Fassbinder's 1974 drama EFFI BRIEST - but pal Martin has been raving about it, part of the Fassbinder season on MUBI - Martin is a devotee of this site, so I just had to get the bluray of this stunning and engrossing drama.     .

We like Rainer Werner Fassbinder's early Seventies films here, they were must-sees in arty London circles then, along with the New German Cinema of Wim Wenders and Herzog. I liked Fassinder best: THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT, FEAR EATS THE SOUL and the very downer but essential gay classic FOX AND HIS FRIENDS (see Fassbinder label), and the later more bizarrely explicit QUERELLE, his last film, and the mess the out of control director made of DESPAIR with Dirk Bogarde, in 1978. 
In the nineteenth century, seventeen year old Effi Briest is married to the older Baron von Instetten and moves into a house in a small isolated Baltic town. She soon bears a daughter,  Effi is lonely when her husband is away on business, so she spends time riding and walking along the shore with Major Crampas. Instetten is promoted to Ministerial Councillor and the family moves to Berlin, where Effi enjoys the social life. Six years later, the Baron is given letters from Crampas to Effi that convince him that they had an affair. He feels obliged to challenge Crampas to a duel and banish Effi from the house.

Like HEDDA GABLER or A DOLL'S HOUSE or ANNA KARENINA or MADME BOVARY this is a searing indictment of women's lives and powerlessness once married to possessive husbands in the restrictive 19th Century. The lesser-known novel by Fontane was a favourite of Fassbinder's and he does it justice with stunning black and white photography and those white fade-outs. Hanna Schygulla is of course tremendous as Effi, and the cast also features Karlheinz Boehm, who also crops up in FOX AND HIS FRIENDS, 

I like EFFIE BRIEST a lot, it should be a better known Fassbinder, and is essential "Women's Cinema" for everyone. It is a film of marvellously controlled images, and vivid imagination, with all those mirror shots. Its a great costume movie too, and I like its leisured, stately pace, almost like a 1950s Ingmar Bergman film. Perhaps that's what Fassbinder intended ... it has a melancholy ending, with a perfect long last shot. 

We will now have to check out his other films. several with Schygulla: THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN, LOLA, LILI MARLEEN, VERONIKA VOSS ...  Schygulla of course was also in PETRA VON KANT, and I remember her in a very vivid 1989 Mexican film by gay Jaime Humberto Hermosillo: MISS FORBES.  She has clocked up 98 credits and is still working now - one of those essential European actresses like Liv Ullmann, Thulin or Moreau, Deneuve, Huppert .... 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks again for the mention and so glad you liked it. Told you MUBI is a great site, (most recent addition this month is Elio Petri's THE TENTH VICTIM which I remember seeing in my local fleapit-cum-arthouse). Like you I will have to add this one to my collection. It would make a great double bill with Dryer's GERTRUD.