Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Margit Carstensen, Karlheinz Böhm, Barbara Valentin, Peter Chatel, Gisela Fackeldey
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Fassbinder is at his best in Martha.
Russell Fanelli | Longmeadow, MA USA | 07/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Martha deserves a wide and appreciative audience. This film demonstrates the power of the visual image to tell a story completely. If you do not speak German and you turn off the subtitles, my guess is that you will understand most of the story just by watching closely what happens. Fassbinder's creative use of the camera to dramatize important moments of the plot development and his placement of his actors in each carefully constructed scene support and dramatize the spoken word.
Martha is a librarian who watches helplessly as her father dies of heart failure on the Spanish Steps in Rome. On her way for help to the German Embassy in Rome, she passes by a man who takes special notice of her. Fassbinder emphasizes this chance meeting by using a startling 360 degree camera shot. We know instantly that this encounter will have important consequences later in the story. In fact, Martha meets the man again at a wedding reception in Germany. After a brief courtship, she marries him and begins her slow descent into a living hell.
The man she marries is Helmut Salamon, a structural engineer who immediately begins to take complete control over Martha's life. He tenders her resignation at her job, establishes her in an old fashioned mansion which Martha hates, isolates her from friends and family, and finally asks that she not go out of the house at all. Sexually he abuses her with his violent passion which includes bites that are clearly visible and painful. He tells her to stop listening to her favorite music. Ironically, she loves Lucia de Lammermoor. He gives her Orlando di Lasso to listen to, which Martha says is boring. He even demands that she read a book on structural engineering. Finally, he removes the phone from the house completing Martha's isolation. Helmut slowly drives Martha insane and enjoys watching her steady deterioration into madness.
If this plot sounds familiar, it is. Fassbinder loved going to the movies as a child and began making his own films as a teenager. He gave his own original stamp to what might have been seen as an overworked plot. With Fassbinder, we come back again to where we have been before, but see with new understanding what we previously thought we had learned.
Margit Cartensen as Martha and Karlheinz Bohm as Helmut are both excellent as is the entire cast, but it is Fassbinder, the director, who is the real star of this show. His creativity and imagination in focusing our attention on what we see give new meaning to our understanding of the power of motion pictures.
Fassbinder died youg, but his legacy in film is secure with pictures like Martha."
Fassbinder's best movie
Russell Fanelli | 04/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "Martha" is both a horror movie and (as Fassbinder said of Hitchcock's "Suspicion") "the most drastic film I know against the institution of bourgeois marriage." Filmed for German TV in 1973 with cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (who went on to shoot, among other films, Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula") "Martha" features hysterical performances by Margit Carstensen and Karlheinz Bohm. Fassbinder ripped the plot off from a Cornell Woolrich story, and this kept the film locked up in legal limbo for years. It has been out in Germany for almost ten years, and now American viewers decide for themselves if the title for this review is just guff or what. "Martha" is Fassbainder's riff on Hitchcock's "Suspicion" and "Marnie," George Cukor's "Gaslight," and Max Ophüls' "Caught," all films about a sadistically authoritarian husband who psychologically coerces his wife. Filmed in the candy-color style of Universal-era Hitchcock, "Martha" is super-creepy and hilarious. Cheers to Fantoma for their lovely digital transfer of this criminally under-seen film."
David Freydkin | Atlanta, GA | 03/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Martha is a typical Fassbinder film of social criticism, this time focused on marriage, how people marry for the wrong reasons, and how this ruins the lives of both husband, wife, and children.
In this movie, Martha, a 31-year-old virgin marries Helmut, a wealthy engineer. From dating to marriage, Helmut completely dominates Martha and makes her do things she doesn't want to do. He makes her ride rollercoasters with him which she fears, he makes her listen to his favorite music, makes her read a book about his profession which she finds boring. He even finally orders her not to leave their house, so that she can exist exclusively for him. He has very violant sex with her, which includes bites, bruises, even when she is heavily sun-burned. He both physically, mentally, and emotionally terrorizes her.
Why does Martha, at least for most of the movie, let Helmut do this to her? This is a result of a loveless marriage between her mother and father. Both were unhappily married, disliked one another, and often expressed that onto Martha, frequently putting her down. Her father makes fun of her all the time. Her mother calls her a disgusting 31-year-old virgin and blames the father's death on her. As a result of this, Martha needs someone like Helmut to dominate her and usually finds Helmuts sadistic behavior acceptable.
Even other people in the movie are heading in the direction of unhappy loveless marriages. Her boss at the library asks her associate to marry him after Martha turns him down. Martha's sister also gets married out of pressure.
At the end, the marriage between Martha and Helmut has tragic consequences. I think the message of the movie is a criticism of society and how many people get married for the wrong reasons and end up destroying their lives.
People anywhere in the world can relate to this movie and I think people should watch it before making the final decision on popping or answering the big question.
Note: The scene where he has violant sex with her on their honeymoon is quite disturbing.
Red Hood | 01/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie awakens feelings in you that you try to supress. You don't know which characters you like and which you think are moronic. Fassbinder's use of camera angles is brilliant and you leave wondering what kind of person you are and whether you have morals or not."