Thursday, October 18, 2012

#203: The BRD Trilogy

(Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1978-1982)

Of any boxset I've watched during this adventure, the widest gaps in viewing each film came with the BRD Trilogy. I first saw The Marriage of Maria Braun in college, then watched it a couple years later to see if I had under-appreciated it (I had, but not by too much). Veronika Voss was one of the first films I watched when beginning this blog, way back in January, 2010. For some reason, Criterion seems to have streaming rights for that film (I watched it on Netflix, but it's now also on their Hulu Plus page) but not for Lola, which is why it took me this long to get around to completing the series.

This broad timeline makes it a little more difficult to reflect on the overall series, but I think three things unquestionably unite the set: tragic female protagonists, a setting in post-WWII Germany, and a pure love for film of the era, particularly in the Sirk-style colors of Lola and the noir-drenched visuals of Veronika Voss. The essay accompanying the set makes a compelling case for the series as metaphoric steps towards a prosperous Germany unshackled from its past. This is certainly present in all of these films, especially in the ending of each. But I like to think of this trilogy as primarily cinematic in intention - not an empty stylistic experiment like Grindhouse, but a purposeful deconstruction of the era through film. Fassbinder has always seemed to me to be the pulpiest of any high-art filmmaker, and while I might have enjoyed World on a Wire more, this set is where his grandest ambitions are fully represented. I might not really love any of these films, but I don't think you can say you've completed a grand overview of cinematic history without watching them. In many ways, they define post-war German cinema.

Here are the links to individual reviews:
The Marriage of Maria Braun (no review)
Veronika Voss

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