Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fraulein - Ein Detusches Melodram

The last made for TV movie by Michael Haneke before doing his first big screen film (later he did two more made for TV movies) is a film that honestly really confused me. My first spontaneous reaction was that this movie does not fit what I have in my head regarding Haneke as to me film looks and feels quite normal. Yes found film to be similar to several European movies from those years (the eighties) and before, as film is set in the near past, post-WWII and there was nothing I could find that told me this was a Haneke film. Sigh. But that doesn't mean at all that I didn't enjoy watching this unusual melodrama, a film that to enjoy it you have to really recall many movies, some cinema history and some WWII history, I'll explain later.

Then I started to read about this movie and what follows is a mix of what I read and what I saw in film. Let's start by sharing that this film is considered by some cinema academics as the "response" to Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Die Ehe der Maria Braun (The Marriage of Maria Braun) and perhaps it is as definitively this film looks like what Haneke said: "a deliberate attempt to create a counter-film against the heroizing of German postwar mentalities". In this film the lead role Anna, played by Angelica Domröse, is more concerned with her life and the inconveniences that came when his husband, believed to be dead, suddenly returns to the small German village; which is very different than the patriotic view that predominated in post-war set German cinema. I don't really remember Fassbinder's film as saw it a very long time ago, but maybe will see it again to see with my own eyes the two films relationship.

Nevertheless from what I read, what got my attention is that cinema academics claim that with this film Haneke "overcame" his Fassbinder "obsession". If factual, then we have to thank this film that helped Haneke to develop his own particular master style.

As mentioned film tells the story of Anna, who has a good life 10 years after her husband, Hans, became a POW in Russia. Film starts with Hans family discussing that is time to declare Hans dead, Anna's refusal and showing us how happy life was for this family in this sleepy German village. Anna has two teenage children, works/owns a movie theater and has a companion, Andre, who is accepted by all her family, including her in-laws. Everything changes when she gets a letter from the association of war returnees, telling her that Hans is returning home. Not a bad story, even when only seen in the surface, without analyzing the movie clips, the historic events and news seen in the movie theater and other screens.

If something I discovered after reading about film is that film is complex, very complex. To me contemporary Haneke's films have been quite easy to decode, but this one was not, even when I'm familiar with many -not all- the movie clips and other elements shown in film. Maybe now that I learned so much about this movie I could watch it again to decode all elements; so, I do recommend you read as much as possible about this movie before watching as surely will help to enjoy more film. Unlike previous Haneke's TV movie I posted, this film has many references and analysis that you can easily find in the net.

Spontaneously film as a film bothered me a lot because editing which I found intrusive instead of explanatory, which is not at all how contemporary Haneke's films are. But film has many absolutely beautiful compositions that are truly visually stunning and yes, is a black and white film that only at the end, for a few minutes, becomes full color.

Would I be talking like the above if film was not a Haneke film? No, probably not; but it is a Haneke film and had to learn more about film before writing and yes, surely will watch film again but have to wait a while as watching two Haneke's films in one day was too much, I knew it but couldn't resist watching. Sigh.

If you enjoy Haneke's contemporary work then this film is must be seen for you but as mentioned, suggest you read about film before watching; if you enjoy classic European melodramas then I know you could also enjoy this film.

I'm still amazed that this is a made for TV movie (German TV) as definitively does not look or feel like that; film looks and feels like big screen movies from the seventies and eighties, like many films from great French, Italian, and German directors. Truly surprising as before watching these two Haneke's films perhaps the best TV related film was 1989 Dekalog miniseries; but have to admit that I haven't seen Fassbinder's made for TV movies. If you wish to see film, use the link provided in previous Haneke's made for TV movie post.


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