Review of “The Marriage of Maria Braun”


The Kerala State Chalachithra Academy exhibited a remarkable film production by way of paying tribute to Michel Bellhaus, ace cinematographer, who passed away on 12th April 2017.Bellhaus, vide the KSCA brochure, “Bellhaus worked on most Fassbinder films before he moved to Hollywood where he worked with Martin Scorsese and other film makers. He is regarded as one of the most influential and important cinematographers in the world.”

The 120-minute long German film production titled The Marriage of Maria Braun, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, at one divides our attention between the chaos that is daily life especially for a woman torn between two distinctly different emotional allegiances, and the true significance of human sense of loneliness and experience of forlornness, which you and I seek to fight in our own diversionary ways!

This film is remarkable not only because the theme is unusual—a the herculean efforts that a lone grass widow makes in WWII time to keep up her divided allegiances—but also for the excellent acting performance put up by Hanna Schygulla the female protagonist.

The synopsis is simple enough.

Maria (acted by Hanna) has married Hermann Braun during the last days of the WWII, and Germany is fighting from her last ditch, trying to retain the morale of her troops and to make an appearance of fighting in all seriousness. Hermann disappears after the first day and is reported as “Missing, probably killed in action”. Maria feels pangs of conscience in this connection that she has failed to live up to his expectations from his bride!

Left alone, Maria, being at the end of her tether, Maria devises her own ways to survive; in this connection, she uses her beauty as a tool to charm menfolk who can assure her of security and creature comforts. She learns her ropes all right—viz. how to play her game in the most result oriented manner– with the consequence that she prospers during the 1950’s as a businesswoman avatar. Her chosen partners’ skin tint doesn’t in the least matter to her too: it’s after all a question of survival with some lifestyle quality!

Hermann returns when she is with her latest partner, a swarthy African gentleman. This flings Maria into a piquant scenario. She is confused and wishing to display her marital fidelity to both partners as a virtuous wife ought to!

It’s thus reduced to a basic question of choosing between Mr. Box and Mr. Cox, the legitimate and the not-so-legitimate!

Maria ‘celebrates’ her First Night with her recently returned German hubby in her own inimitable manner of course (She is all Ms. Impulse in the flesh in all that she does!) by inadvertently or purposely by letting off the cooking gas and lighting a lamp to set the house on fire! Naturally she also dies in the conflagration that instantly engulfs the middle class home!


The Lone Woman Syndrome is a challenge a to most Indian women too no less than to Maria. Many kinds of wolves haunt such a woman and she has the worst to fear especially if she happens to be living alone in a house either as a widow or as a grass widow of sorts , expecting her distant husband’s arrival!

Women with a fair quantum of beauty to boast of are free to devise their own ways to survive though the Indian version of Mrs. Grundy, over obsessed with the dire need for chastity in her women exclusively, keeps on commenting tartly and satirically about her in various ways; even her daily movements are monitored by interested Peeping Tom eyes!

Thus Indian Woman also ,whatever her social status may be, is thus totally helpless, undeservedly victimized for even trifles, accused as worth crucifixion and community ostracism for no reason even by her own so called kith and kin ,  and a potential victim to the country’s queer and horribly conventional behavioral patterns. She has to devise her own reasons for survival and she gets absolutely no assistance from anyone else too.

The photography in this film is high quality and in such a way that the viewer is gently transported into the German family world with all its comedy and tragedy. Nothing is edited and airbrushed; the realities get exhibited as such, leaving the viewers to arrive at their own preferred conclusions!

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