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1 rating: 5.0
1974 film directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
1 review about Martha

Strange Freudian film noir that will make you laugh and cringe at the same time.

  • Dec 21, 2009
  • by
Martha (Margit Carensten) is a spinster in her early 30's.  A daddy's girl and naive woman who's sheltered view on life is changed forever when her father dies on their vacation in Italy.  On her way back home, she meets a handsome yet creepy man (Karlheinz Bohm).  The two cross paths (in a very unusual camera shot filmed by Michael Ballhaus) and are taken by one another.  Martha returns home and rejects a marriage proposal from her boss and learns about her mother's secret drinking problem. A few days later at a dinner party, Martha once again meets the stranger she saw in Germany and finds out his name is Helmut.  In a bizarre courtship that follows, Helmut and Martha soon marry (much to the displeasure of Martha's mother who vowed that they would marry over her dead body and ties to kill herself).  With the mother in a mental institution, Martha moves in with Helmut and soon realizes that Helmut is more than meets the eye.

A tragic, over-the-top melodramatic film that satires all of the film noir stories that deal with lonely women and handsome but strange men.  Martha is a woman with many issues (wants to be with a man who's like her father, low self esteem, has no idea about normal relationships) and Helmut is sociopath who wants total dependence, self devotion and no individualism from his wife).  Martha tries to defy Helmut but can never win any of their "battles of wits".  I've noticed that Martha has no idea what a normal and healthy relationship is.  She has none with her family and friends.  When her husband's action grow more and more sadistic and cruel, Martha doesn't believe her former co-worker when he tells her "Your husband is a sadist".  Helmut is a man who has no personality and finds pleasure in mentally and physically torturing his wife.  He's a man with no moral fiber and seems to emulate Martha's father originally to maker her fall for him.

Another brilliant film from Fassbinder.  He takes a topic and plot that would ordinarily be a flat and shallow pulpish story and made it complex and intellectually stimulating.  There are so many ways of trying to interpret this film and none of them would be wrong.  I couldn't believe it when I learned about how this movie was made for German television.  This is no ordinary TV movie and I was very impressed with the camerawork, acting, writing and direction.  Margit Carstensen's portrayal of Martha is truly phenomenal.  She portrays her character with wide eyed innocence who's shocked and astounded by the real world.  Karlheinz Bohm excels in his role as Helmut, the sociopathic husband who drips with bad intentions, a sadistic suave aura and has creep written all over his face.  The supporting cast of Fassbinder's regulars give their usual top notch performances.  I really enjoyed this movie and I know you will too.

A must for fans of Fassbinder and people who enjoy complex satires.
Strange Freudian film noir that will make you laugh and cringe at the same time.

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