To dark national past has had an effect

To conclude, Fassbinder’s “Die Ehe Der Maria Braun”
is an example of a film which the history of West Germany is portrayed. Through
the character of Maria Braun is West Germany embodied, along with the many
problems that came especially in the post-war period for West Germany. The film
does represent national identity and national past, using the many characters
as representatives of the historical and social issues that arose as a result
of people who were caught up in this aspect of German history.

Upon further evaluation, it is clear that
corruption is enhanced near the end of the film, through the character of
Hermann. He essentially acquired his wealth through the transformation of his
wife into an object that he can, at free will, exchange for his benefit. In
this 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 that
the German nation as a whole was a victim of deceit, just as Maria’s dream was
destroyed. The West German Chancellor is also heard on the radio playing in the
background. Here, he is exclaiming that Germany will “never re-arm”, and soon
after, claims that it is vital that Germany “must re-arm again”. Essentially
here, the Chancellor made a secret agreement to re-arm Germany, further highlighting
the German nation as a victim of deceit. Therefore, one can conclude that the
prosperity of post-war Germany was entirely built on a sequence of false
premises.

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In terms of national past,
Fassbinder was very concerned about how and if the memories of the dark
national past has had an effect on society. In the film, it is clear that the
character of Maria can be representative of the past. Jean de Baron made a
statement that “the fate of the heroine parallels the fate of
Germany, conquered, corrupted and reconstructed. Maria Braun not only
symbolises Germany, in Fassbinder’s eyes she is Germany” (Marcia,
Landy,2001). A scene worth noting here is the one where Maria kills her
romantic partner Bill, the American G.I. This act can be interpreted as a
violent response to the “re-emergence of a traumatic past”. In this scene,
Maria and Bill are interrupted by the unannounced arrival of Hermann, her
husband. Maria kills Bill with a bottle as he and Hermann fight. This violent
response could be noted as a result of a return of a connection to West Germany’s
past. In this case, with Hermann, he was supposed to have been killed, but instead
was being kept as a “prisoner of war”. One can conclude here that Fassbinder
indeed shows that West Germany could cause some emotional stress with regards
to the resolution of its own problematic history.

Furthermore, this explosion at
the end of the film results in the deaths of Maria and Hermann. Throughout
their lives they were both troubled with the hardships of a loss of identity
and the society in which they were engulfed in. In a sense, all of the bad
energy surrounding them had disappeared when they died, leaving behind a
Germany in safe hands and a good atmosphere. They left behind a Germany whom
celebrated national unity and success, as well as the obvious sporting success.
Therefore, one can come to the conclusion that the soundtracks of the film aid
in portraying national identity.

In addition to the struggles
of women, the various different soundtracks played throughout the film are a
good representation of national identity and national past. In terms of
national identity, we can explore the end of the film in order to get an understanding
of 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 put
some 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 is
that Germany has once again regained its status in the world through this
victory in an international competition, leaving behind all sorrows of the
Great Wars and marking a new beginning for Germany. Through sport does
Fassbinder display a message of national unity in “Die Ehe Der Maria Braun”.

Another aspect of the film
which displays how women were perceived in post-war Germany was through her
relationship with the American G.I., Bill. To put this into context, at the
time, American occupation of Germany was heavily underway, and there was a
continuous worry that the German women would be deeply involved with some of
the American soldiers. Through these potential relationships, it is clear that
this weakens the overall reconstruction of West Germany post-war; through the
unmoral acts of the German women. Many goods, such as cigarettes, could be
traded with the women for love, seemingly referring to the women as prostitute
like. In the film, Maria’s relationship with Bill coincides with this idea, and
is an example of how Fassbinder uses the character of Maria Braun to portray
historical 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 that
the character of Maria is symbolic of the fate of not only German women but
women around the world for whom the immediate post war period had brought the
kind of autonomy and liberation to. These women were in the
reconstruction period of the late 1940s and 50s and had claimed social
benefits. Maria becomes a business women through her own struggles for a search
of identity, therefore it can be said that national identity is closely linked
to the struggles of women during the war and post war period.

Following on from this point, it is important to gain a historical
context of Post-War West Germany. The main aspect in which Fassbinder focused on
was the “Wirtschaftswunder” (Economic Miracle). However, through Fassbinder’s
eyes it wasn’t viewed as entirely positive. He saw it as a representation of how
the Nazis continued to obtain a powerful stance in society, something which he
felt was being ignored by the general public at the time.

Here, Fassbinder purposely utilizes Maria’s
identity in order to represent the German situation as a whole, further
highlighted through a radio broadcast on Maria’s journey home. It reads a name
as “Alder, first name unknown”. Here, Fassbinder implies that it isn’t just the
person searching for identity, but it is also Germany trying to find itself
again after the havoc of the War.

The idea of seeking identity is pivotal in
this film. A scene worth mentioning here is the black market scene. Maria’s
mother hears her coming home and asks “Is that you, Maria?” (Film, black market
scene, Mum’s line). This question is the first of many instances in which Maria
is being questioned about her identity. This is the case for Oswald, Maria’s
French/German businessman/lover. He, along with many other characters in the
film, notices how Maria has changed in terms of personality, becoming foreign
to her new identity as a “successful self-made professional woman”.

 

 “Die
Ehe Der Maria Braun” is both a melodrama, dealing with a woman struggling to
succeed 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 could
have 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. This
idea presented by Fassbinder is evident in the film in the scene with Maria and
Hermann 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 of
the film, society seemed to be drifting away from resolving any problems, without
changing anything. Fassbinder’s thoughts on the country’s development can be
highlighted through Hermann, in the scene where his final word “Nein” (Film,
kitchen scene, Hermann’s line) is shouted to Maria in the kitchen. The point
Fassbinder links here is the fact that Germany has gone down a wrong path and
in doing so, failed to establish a new identity.

 

In this period of time, Fassbinder’s portrayal
of the German nation post-war is seen as not highly ambiguous. The “structurally
motivated ambiguity” (Elsaesser, 1996) reaches further out than the question of
whether or not Maria’s death is “the result of an accident or a deliberate
action”, but rather it is “rooted in a complex discourse on Germany’s
sovereignty and identity after the war in which private emotions and actions
are reflected in public developments and vice versa” (Uecker, 2001). Therefore,
one can come to the assumption that for the character of Maria Braun, in terms
of 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 independence
in order to retain a state of mental peace. This “betrayal” by Hermann
correlates to West Germany’s return to normality, and in doing so, destroys
Maria’s independence. This emptiness that Maria experiences can be concluded as
a result of the post-war situation of Germany (Uecker, 2001).

 

When Germany capitulated at the end of
World War II, it found itself confronted by a massive identity crisis; the
first attempts at a democracy, the Weimar Republic, had ended in disaster, the ensuing
Nazi dictatorship had thrust the country into destruction not witnessed since
the 30 Years’ War. What was known as the “Stunde Null”, or Zero Hour, had the
German people stood at a crossroads. The German film industry declared their
intention 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 German
identity. Rainer Werner Fassbinder emerged as the most significant film-maker
of this movement. Throughout all his films, Fassbinder examines what it is to
be German, and this reaches its culmination in the so-called BRD film: Die Ehe
der Maria Braun (The Marriage of Maria Braun). In this essay I will discuss the
forces which shape West German culture in the film, along with an assessment of
how significant a part national identity plays.

 

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