Effi Briest Movie Review

"It is strange, but much of my life can be described by the word 'almost'."

It's the most powerful sentiment in Fassbinder's Effi Briest, an uncharacteristic departure from his body of work: A black and white period piece about society and morality in 1880s Prussia.

Unfortunately, this is a Merchant-Ivory epic by way of The Scarlet Letter, and with Fassbinder's perverted sensibilities tugging at the hem of the film, we end up with an overblown mishmash of stodgy narration and long, unbroken shots that track endlessly on nothing of consequence.

At its core is Effi Briest (Hanna Schygulla, who starred in some of Fassbinder's best works), a 17 year old girl who is promptly married off to an up-and-coming Prussian politician. Alas, the inexperienced Effi promptly falls into a tepid semi-affair with a local military man. Years later, husband finds out about their walks along the shore, followed by a duel, a death, a banishment, and much sadness.

Getting to the dramatic climax, though, takes nearly two hours, and it's followed by 20 more minutes of weeping. None of the actors here makes enough of an impression to make you care about them (though admittedly, this is a film about societal repression, so a little mutedness is in order). But it's Fassbinder's arm's-length direction that makes Effi Briest come off as cold and detached instead of calculating and sad.

Comments

Effi Briest Rating

" Grim "

Rating: NR, 1974

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