Effi Briest

Theodor Fontane's “Effi Briest” is the most famous 19th-century German novel; it holds a position in its own country analogous to that of “Madame Bovary” in France. Rainer Werner Fassbinder's film is both an extremely faithful adaptation of the novel and a subtle manipulation of its structure. The result is a unique double perspective that both recreates the 19th century and offers a modern re-analysis of it in terms of the rise of fascism and the oppression of women. Effi Briest, a vivacious mixture of anti-conformity and mediocrity, is married when very young to a much older Prussian diplomat. Carried away to a remote Baltic port by her pedagogical husband, Effi drifts into a brief, passionless affair with a local womanizer. The full effects are felt only six years later, in a chilling manifestation of the Prussian code. The intensity of Fassbinder's visual style - gleaming black surfaces sharply etched against pale backgrounds; the elaborate use of mirrors, screens, and curtains; and the desolate landscapes of sand dunes and pine forests - makes Effi Briest the director's most classical and elegant film.

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