Fassbinder’s take on Theodor Fontane’s tale of the rise and fall of a cosseted young 19th-century Candide is among his most visually ravishing. Married to a considerably older man (Wolfgang Schenck), gentle Effi (Hanna Schygulla) lives in a comfortable prison, a manor on the Baltic Sea staffed by servants whose chilly demeanor mirrors the house’s statuary. Too young and naïve to understand that breaking the rigid rules of her world might spell her doom, Effi falls for the handsome Major Crampas (Ulli Lommel) and, in the process, hurtles toward a tragic fate. Fassbinder films Fontane’s novel as both a deeply moving “woman’s picture” and a working metaphor for the plight of a subversive filmmaker working in an oppressive, reactionary society.

  • Directed By Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • 1974
  • West Germany
  • German with English subtitles
  • 35mm
  • 141 minutes