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Effi Briest
Effi Briest
Actors: Hanna Schygulla, Wolfgang Schenck, Ulli Lommel, Karlheinz Böhm, Irm Hermann
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
NR     2003     2hr 15min

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's film begins with young Effi Briest (Hanna Schygulla) recounting how her mother, though in love with a young man, married an older one with an established position. That young man--now older and...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Hanna Schygulla, Wolfgang Schenck, Ulli Lommel, Karlheinz Böhm, Irm Hermann
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Creators: Dietrich Lohmann, Jürgen Jürges, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Thea Eymèsz, Theodor Fontane
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance
Studio: Fox Lorber
Format: DVD - Black and White,Full Screen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/18/2003
Original Release Date: 06/16/1977
Theatrical Release Date: 06/16/1977
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 2hr 15min
Screens: Black and White,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 8
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: German
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Deceptively exquisite masterpiece
J. Clark | metro New York City | 05/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Coming at the midpoint of his 43-film career, Effi Briest is one of Fassbinder's greatest, and most universally acclaimed, films. The DVD transfer of Effi Briest is flawless.Theodor Fontane's 1895 novel, about the consequences of betrayed love, was long a favorite of Fassbinder's. Effi Briest was so important to Fassbinder that he not only wrote the screenplay (which was customary), but in his extensive role as the offscreen narrator he literally became Fontane's voice, and sometimes even Effi's. Adding yet another personal layer, he also cast his own mother, Lilo Pempeit, as Effi's mother.Although I believe this is one of Fassbinder's most intricate masterpieces, as suggested below, it is also one of his most accessible films. On its most basic level, it features an engrossing melodrama about adultery, albeit one purposefully shorn of histrionics. Set in the closed, repressive Prussian society of the Bismarck era, it shows what happens when teenage Effi Briest (Hanna Schygulla, who appeared in twenty of Fassbinder's films), with prodding from her parents, makes an expedient marriage to a rising politician twice her age, Baron Geert von Instetten, and later has an affair with the charming Major Crampas. The film is marked by performances of exceptional nuance and depth; rich period detail and production design; and striking black and white cinematography. But it also works on many more levels - not only as Effi's wrenching story but as Fassbinder's profound involvement both in the social implications of her tale and in his probing of the expressive possibilities of film itself.Fassbinder (sometimes accused of being a "stagy" director) here shows his mastery of the expressive possibilities of image. To take one example, just over an hour into the film, there is a scene with Effi and Instetten in their boudoir, which follows the scene where Instetten spied on his wife and her lover (although Effi does not know this). Vsually, Fassbinder plays off of our knowledge of the fraught context by creating a beautiful but telling emblem for Effi's married life. We see her in a nightgown, looking towards the camera, cosseted behind a lace net which fills the frame; her eyes downturned, she sinks into a luxurious feather bed, sippin coffee. Behind Effi sits her stiff husband in a suit, his head bracketed by a grille, trying to trick her into revealing her infidelity. Both of them are watched over by a praying plaster cherub, ironically suggesting the role religion plays in their lives. This one shot - gorgeous yet tense (both compositionally and dramatically) - tells us so much about Effi, her life, and the social/political nature of her world.On a narrative level, Fassbinder uses the film's formal construction to explore the very repression in Effi's life and world. Like agitprop playwright Bertolt Brecht (some of whose works Fassbinder staged at his theatre), Fassbinder wants to give us distance from the action so that we can better contemplate its social, and perhaps even personal, implications. At one emotionally charged moment, the narrator tells us that Effi "threw herself on Instetten." But we see no such thing. The couple is offscreen, and we are left in the kitchen watching the servants desultorily preparing a meal. This defuses the melodrama, which produces a fascinating double effect. On the one hand, it thwarts our expectations - hence giving us aesthetic distance; but on the other hand, it forces us to imagine the scenes for ourselves - which, paradoxically, draws us even further into Effi's life.In Effi Briest, Fassbinder brings together image, emotion, and idea in extraordinarily rich and complex ways, even as he tells an engrossing story. To take just one more example, it is no accident that this film is filled with statues, which so uncannily parallel the stiff people who share the screen with them. This is a world in which the human figures increasingly recede into the background, where outdoors they are obscured by branches and bushes, while indoors their rigid forms are framed in narrow doorways and reflected - constrained and meaninglessly multiplied - in a series of ever more elaborate mirrors. Fassbinder has captured the poetry of repression: Exquisitely beautiful but enervating, and, ultimately, fatal."
A cinematic gem; one of Fassbinder's best.
J. Clark | 02/14/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Fassbinder creates a masterpiece of cinematic literature: With the richness of black and white shades that mirror the printed work and the subtle textures of a film style reminiscent of turning pages, Fontane's novel of Wilhelmian society is presented as "Literature for the Big Screen." A work which explores social duty and opression with melodramatic flavor, whether you are a fan of soaps, a student of literature or film, or simply someone with an appreciation for aesthetic appeal there is something to be enjoyed, if not truly savored, from the experience of Effi Briest."
A good voyage into morals of 19th century
Anna Shlimovich | Boston, MA United States | 10/16/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This movie is probably more "conventional" of all Fassbinder's movies I have seen. However, I liked the way it was done. The story itself left an indelible impression of me, apart from its cinematographic strengths and weaknesses. I think it portrayed bourgeois Germany of 19th century with its hypocritical morals very well. The very reason why Effi was cast out of society and rejected by her parents seems to be absurd for a modern viewer, and I trust that Fassbider wanted to examine exactly that. The personal drama of Effi, the mother who comes to hate her own daughter, I think is very powerful. I believe it's a good tribute by Fassbinder into studies in German society and its culture. A very much worthwhile film, interesting to compare this handling of an issue with Bergman's dealing with similar issues. This is definitely not a Hollywood style movie. Recommended."
Domesticity against freedom!
Hiram Gomez Pardo | Valencia, Venezuela | 06/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The stifling domesticity of the german society is superbly adapted by Rainer Werner Fassbinder supported by the novel of Theodor Fontane.
A teenager (17) tries to escape from a hell marriage with a count too much older than her , when she decides to establish a love affair with a soldier.
Once more the simultaneous views with other similar themes such as Madame Bovary , Anna Karenina or Tess is the best proof that the prejuices of the european society didn't change too much . The adultery is the only way : and the prize you 've to pay deserves in much the masquerade of trying to convince herself and the society an imaginary hapiness.
We know this story believe or not , still lives : the situations may be different but the meaning essence is real. There are so many unhappy couples not necesarily married who prefer to keep united instead to give a jump to a unknown universe . They prefer the security before the emotional independence .
A latinoamerican writer told once : * The love when it doesn't exist , you need to invent it *.
Fassbinder seems to walk in the border of the soap melodram , but it never falls in it . This is the first movie who shows the huge admiration felt by Fassbinder through Douglas Sirk.
Warning for instance the unexpected casualities among these two brilliant film makers. Both of two lived in a febrile existence and certainly lived faster his biologic time . Sirk made twenty nine films in just sixteen years : while Fassbinder made thiry six pictures in eighteen years.
However Fasssbinder was a more human film maker : he never made a judgement about any of his characters : he loved them instead his faults : the humanity and the huge perception of the female soul is supported in an interview given for the lovely and gifted actress Hanna Shygulla where she stated that they never agree about the tragic pathos who loaded the soul of Fassbinder , she thought that it was possible in a couple , go beyond all the circunstances and deserve the triumph, while he always denied it. She afirmed that this point of view was due the homosexual condition of Fassbinder.
This film is a gem of thousand carats. 140 min run before the viewer without you realize.
This work is an artistic triumph! and one of my top favorites of this german film maker.
After you watch it , you'll remember this sentence of Erich Fromm : The man has achieved undeniable technological progress but emotionally , he still keeps in the age stone."