Criterion Collector’s Set: The BRD Trilogy: Marriage of Maria Braun, Veronika Voss, & Lola

4 x DVD

Main Details
Companies
Identifying Codes
Criterion 203
Format
Language German
Subtitles English
Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
Colour Color
Audio
Run Time 339 minutes
Classification
R
Notes By the age of thirty-four, German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder had directed already twenty-two feature films. In 1978, he embarked upon a project to trace the history of postwar Germany in a series of films told through the eyes of three remarkable women. Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun, Lola, and Veronika Voss—the BRD (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) Trilogy—would garner him the international acclaim he had always yearned for and place his name foremost in the canon of New German Cinema.

THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN (1978)
After her husband disappears in the last days of World War II, Maria uses her beauty and ambition to prosper in 1950s Germany. The first part of Fassbinder’s “postwar trilogy” is a heartbreaking character study as well as a pointed metaphorical attack on a society determined to forget its past.

VERONIKA VOSS (1982)
Once-beloved Third Reich–era starlet Veronika Voss lives in obscurity in postwar Munich. She meets a sportswriter, and the two develop an unlikely relationship. Based on the true story of a World War II UFA star, Veronika Voss is wicked satire disguised as 1950s melodrama.

LOLA (1981)
In Fassbinder’s satiric tribute to capitalism, Lola, a seductive cabaret singer-prostitute, launches an outrageous plan to elevate herself in a world where everything, and everyone, is for sale.

Special features for The Marriage of Maria Braun:
• Audio commentary by cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and filmmaker Wim Wenders
• Exclusive video interview with regular Fassbinder collaborator, Hanna Schygulla
• Video interview with Fassbinder scholar Eric Rentschler

Special Features for Veronica Voss:
• Audio commentary by Fassbinder scholar Tony Rayns
• New video conversation with star Rosel Zech and editor Juliane Lorenz
• Dance with Death, a one-hour portrait of UFA Studios star, Sybille Schmitz, Fassbinder's inspiration for Veronika Voss

Special features for Lola:
• Audio commentary by Fassbinder documentarian, biographer, and friend Christian Braad Thomsen
• New video interview with Lola star Barbara Sukowa
• New video interview with Fassbinder co-screenwriter Peter Marthesheimer
• The Supplements (Fourth bonus disc)
• I Don't Just Want You to Love Me, a feature-length documentary of Fassbinder's life and career
• Life Stories: A Conversation with R.W. Fassbinder, a rare 45-minute interview with the director, made for German television
• Exclusive video interview with Fassbinder cinematographer Xaver Schwarzenberger
• Exclusive video conversation between Fassbinder scholar Laurence Kardish and editor Juliane Lorenz

Anamorphic, Box set, Black & White, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC

There is at least one certifiable masterpiece in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy, and one could argue that all three films qualify for that honor. Conceived as a series of sociopolitical melodramas set during West Germany's "economic miracle" of post-war recovery (roughly 1947-60), these exquisitely crafted films found the prolific Fassbinder (1945-82) near the end of his astounding career and at the height of his creative powers, depicting post-war Germany as a land of repressed memory and surging capitalism, repressively avoiding any connection to the horrors of its Nazi past. Women were Fassbinder's conduit to analyzing the BDR (Bundesrepublik Deutchland) and its effect on the German character, resulting in three of the most remarkable female characters ever committed to film.

As noted in an affectionate commentary track by Fassbinder's friend and fellow director Wim Wenders, The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) is Fassbinder's undisputed masterwork, a critical and box-office triumph that fulfilled Fassbinder's goal of creating a "German Hollywood melodrama" in the tradition of his director-hero, Douglas Sirk. Beautifully shot by Michael Ballhaus (who advanced to brilliant collaborations with Martin Scorsese), it stars Hanna Schygulla in her signature role as a newlywed whose missing husband returns in the mid-'50s, just as she's reinventing herself through opportunism, seduction, and blind ambition--a woman, like Germany, determined to forget her miserable past, with explosively tragic results. "BRD 2" is the wickedly satirical Veronika Voss (1982), filmed in black and white (a stylistic nod to German'y's post-war thrillers) and starring Rosel Zech as a faded film star-turned-morphine addict making futile attempts to revive her career. Set in 1957, Lola ("BRD 3," 1981) is Fassbinder's homage to Josef von Sternberg's The Blue Angel, and stars Barbara Sukowa as a cabaret singer and prostitute who, like Maria Braun, is for sale to the highest bidder--in this case a straight-laced official (Armin Mueller-Stahl) who discovers the high cost of ignorance.

Taken together, these films form an impressively coherent vision, compassionate and yet brutally honest, unsentimental, and provocatively critical of post-war Germany. In the established tradition of the Criterion Collection, extensive supplements explore the depth of Fassbinder's achievement. Three commentaries, each with their own uniquely personal and/or critical perspective, are among the finest Criterion has ever recorded. Interviews with Schygulla, Zech, Sukowa, and many of Fassbinder's closest collaborators pay latter-day tribute to Fassbinder and his extended family of on- and off-screen talent, while the 96-minute German TV documentary I Don't Just Want You to Love Me explores Fassbinder's tragically curtailed life and work through abundant film clips and interviews. A filmed 1978 interview with Fassbinder himself--at 49 minutes, the longest ever recorded--offers further insight into the psychology and chain-smoking intensity of a man who burned out from drugs and exhaustion at the age of 37. Along with the collected Adventures of Antoine Doinel, the BRD Trilogy is one of the most impressive DVD sets ever released, and a sparkling jewel in Criterion's crown. — Jeff Shannon
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