Criterion Collection: Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy

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Rainer Werner Fassbinder died in 1982 at the age of 37, thanks to his appetite for drugs and his obsession with work, and while the filmmaker was at the height of his fame at the time of his passing, the sheer bulk of his cinematic legacy -- over 40 films completed between 1969 and 1982, two of which were actually television miniseries -- made it difficult to evaluate it all and place his work into proper context. That's still the case to some degree, but Criterion's recent release of their box set The BRD ...
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Rainer Werner Fassbinder died in 1982 at the age of 37, thanks to his appetite for drugs and his obsession with work, and while the filmmaker was at the height of his fame at the time of his passing, the sheer bulk of his cinematic legacy -- over 40 films completed between 1969 and 1982, two of which were actually television miniseries -- made it difficult to evaluate it all and place his work into proper context. That's still the case to some degree, but Criterion's recent release of their box set The BRD Trilogy -- consisting of his late-period masterworks The Marriage of Maria Braun, Veronika Voss, and Lola -- is not just a superb presentation of some of Fassbinder's most memorable work, but a fascinating and enlightening examination of the man's life, art, and working methods. The "BRD Trilogy" (which stands for "Bundesrepublik Deutschland," or "The Federal Republic of Germany") consists of three stories about women forced to make their way through the ethical landscape of the post-World War II "Economic Miracle," in which survival walks hand in hand with various sorts of moral compromise, and both technically and aesthetically, Criterion's team have gotten the details just right. All three films have been given letterboxed transfers in their original aspect ratios -- The Marriage of Maria Braun and Lola at 1.66:1, Veronika Voss at 1.78:1 -- and all have been enhanced for anamorphic playback on 16 x 9 monitors. The films all look simply superb in these transfers, which is all the more impressive given how different their visual styles happen to be -- Maria Braun's muted and realistic color scheme, the high-contrast monochrome of Veronika Voss, and the bright candy-hued images of Lola. The audio for all three films has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono from original magnetic elements, and if the improvement is less striking than the visuals, the cleaner audio does make a real difference, especially in Fassbinder's use of vintage radio broadcasts in all three films (which receive adequate subtitling there, which wasn't the case in previous issues). The set's collection of supplemental material is both informative and suitably exhausting. All three films have been given distinct audio commentaries: Maria Braun's is a patchwork of observations by friend and filmmaker Wim Wenders, reminiscences from cameraman Michael Ballhaus, and extracts from writings by and about Fassbinder, while Veronika Voss features a detailed running analysis from critic Tony Rayns and Lola is paired with a biographical commentary from Christian Braad Thomsen. Each disc includes bonus interviews and documentaries. Maria Braun features an interview with leading lady (and frequent collaborator) Hanna Schygulla, as well as author Eric Rentschler. Veronika Voss includes a conversation between actress Rosel Zech (who played Veronika) and Fassbinder's frequent editor Juliane Lorenz, as well as an hour-long documentary on Sybille Schmitz, the UFA star who inspired the character of Voss. And Lola is accompanied by an interview with Barbara Sukowa, who played the title role, and Peter Märthesheimer, who co-wrote the screenplays for the BRD films. And as if all this wasn't enough, Criterion has added a fourth disc to the package, which includes a conversation between editor and Fassbinder Foundation director Lorenz and Laurence Kardish of the Museum of Modern Art's Film and Media Department; an interview with cinematographer Xaver Schwarzenberger, who worked on many of Fassbinder's later projects; a feature-length documentary on Fassbinder, Ich Will Nicht Nur, Dass Ihr Mich Liebt (aka I Don't Just Want You to Love Me), and an hour-long chat with Fassbinder himself (chain-smoking and looking more than a bit worse for wear), filmed for German television in 1978. Add a beautifully designed 52-page booklet with original and reprinted essays on Fassbinder's life, work, and the BRD films, and the final result is an exhaustively thorough package that's remarkably executed even by Criterion's high standards. Given the size of his oeuvre, a definitive Fassbinder collection on DVD is either impractical or impossible, but The BRD Trilogy is as intelligent and well-executed a study of one of the crucial periods of his career as anyone could hope for, and essential viewing for anyone with an interest in his work.
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Special Features

New digital transfers with restored image and sound, enhanced for widescreen televisions; Audio commentary tracks by filmmaker Wim Wenders and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (The Marriage of Maria Braun) film critic and author Tony Rayns (Veronika Voss), and film scholar Christian Braad Thomsen (Lola); Exclusive interviews with Fassbinder's leading women Hanna Schygulla (Maria Braun), Rosel Zech (Veronika Voss), and Barbara Sukowa (Lola); New interviews with cinematographer Xaver Schwarzenberger, screenwriter Peter Märthesheimer, and Fassbinder scholar Eric Rentschler; "Life Stories: A Conversation With R.W. Fassbinder," a rare 49-minute interview made for German television; I Don't Just Want You to Love Me: Feature-length documentary of Fassbinder's life and career; "Dance With Death (Tanz mit dem Tod)," a one-hour portrait of UFA Studios star Sybille Schmitz, Fassbinder's inspiration for the character Veronika Voss; Theatrical trailers for The Marriage of Maria Braun, Veronika Voss, and Lola; Senior Curator of MoMA's Film and Media Department Laurence Kardish in conversation with Fassbinder film editor Juliane Lorenz; 52-page book featuring a new essay by film critic Kent Jones and production histories of the trilogy by author Michael Töteberg (Rainer Werner Fassbinder); New and improved English subtitle translations; Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer editions
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/30/2003
  • UPC: 715515014427
  • Rating:

  • Source: Criterion
  • Aspect Ratio: Vistavision (1.66:1), Alternate Wide Screen (1.78:1)
  • Presentation: Black & White / Wide Screen
  • Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Language: Deutsche
  • Time: 5:39:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Technical Credits
Rainer Werner Fassbinder Director
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Scene Index

Side #1 -- The Marriage of Maria Braun
1. "I Do" [3:44]
2. The Train Station [3:35]
3. ."..That Germany Might Live" [1:57]
4. Mother's Brooch [4:37]
5. "I Look Like a Poodle" [4:17]
6. Job Interview [2:10]
7. The Doctor's Office [3:40]
8. Bill the G.I. [4:15]
9. Willy Returns [3:52]
10. "I'm Married to My Husband" [3:42]
11. Alone at Last [4:54]
12. Tribunal [4:02]
13. Karl Oswald of Oswald Textiles [8:17]
14. Potato Salad [1:44]
15. "You're My Wife" [1:57]
16. Negotiations [7:03]
17. A Clear Relationship [6:39]
18. The Mata Hari of the Economic Miracle [3:29]
19. The Mark of a Good Businessman [2:23]
20. A Walk in the Ruins [3:42]
21. The Key to the Universe [2:32]
22. A Birthday Party [6:09]
23. A Rose a Month [5:28]
24. Moving In [3:26]
25. "We All Lose Our Temper" [2:28]
26. Lunch With the Devil [3:03]
27. "Your Fat Little Betti" [3:46]
28. Bad News [1:21]
29. Hermann Braun [6:16]
30. The Will [5:31]
1. The Explosion [3:44]
2. BRD 1 [3:35]
3. The Period [1:57]
4. Production Design [4:37]
5. Hanna Schygulla [4:17]
6. "Nobody Was Really Looking Back" [2:10]
7. Women and Doctors [3:40]
8. Low Lighting [4:15]
9. Competing With Rainer [3:52]
10. Zero Scene [3:42]
11. The Man Outside [4:54]
12. In a Barn [4:02]
13. Filmverlag der Autoren [8:17]
14. The Soundtrack [1:44]
15. Wideshots vs. Close-ups [1:57]
16. Coburg [7:03]
17. The Economic Miracle [6:39]
18. Camera Movement [3:29]
19. No Coverage [2:23]
20. A Director of Women [3:42]
21. End of the Collaboration [2:32]
22. Martin Scorsese [6:09]
23. Hollywood [5:28]
24. The House in Berlin [3:26]
25. The Inner Circle [2:28]
26. Fassbinder in Hollywood? [3:03]
27. Leading Lady [3:46]
28. Rainer's Actors [1:21]
29. Maria as Allegory [6:16]
30. Final Thoughts [5:31]
1. Acting Classes [3:47]
2. Early Films [3:48]
3. Effi Briest and After [4:22]
4. Becoming Maria Braun [3:55]
5. Gestures and Glances [6:05]
6. The New Ending [1:54]
7. Maria Braun's Career [4:56]
8. Born to Upset [3:09]
1. Introduction [4:32]
2. Layers of Excess [3:24]
3. Sirk and Curtiz [2:43]
4. Maria Braun and Mildred Pierce [4:14]
5. Willful Forgetting [4:55]
Side #2 -- Veronika Voss
1. Logos/Opening Credits [2:28]
2. Everything [:47]
3. Insidious Poison, 145, Take 5 [1:15]
4. Safe Haven in a Storm [3:49]
5. Phone Call [1:55]
6. A Pretty Brooch [5:37]
7. A Fan [2:33]
8. "Culture Vultures" [2:28]
9. Dr. Marianne Katz [7:44]
10. Suspicions of an Affair [4:30]
11. Music, Light, Liquor, Pills [4:43]
12. Broken Vase [4:50]
13. Bitter Pills [2:48]
14. Breakfast With the Doctor [4:16]
15. Spying [2:09]
16. A Favor [5:45]
17. Editor's Advice [3:02]
18. Keys to the House [5:51]
19. Blue Skies, 336, Take 11 [4:14]
20. A Man's Downfall [5:05]
21. Double Suicide [5:50]
22. Deadly Prescription [4:15]
23. "Memories Are Made of This" [5:57]
1. Introduction [2:28]
2. Art Imitates Life [:47]
3. Veronika's Yearning [1:15]
4. Protection and Security [3:49]
5. Hilmar Thate [1:55]
6. Light and Shade [5:37]
7. Fellow Amnesiacs [2:33]
8. Sybille Schmitz [2:28]
9. An Identification Figure [7:44]
10. Cornelia Froboess [4:30]
11. Correspondences [4:43]
12. Complications [4:50]
13. The BRD Trilogy [2:48]
14. Harmonious Façade [4:16]
15. Henriette Joins the Team [2:09]
16. Platitudes, or Not [5:45]
17. The Track-In [3:02]
18. Germany in 1955 [5:51]
19. Masha [4:14]
20. Male Bonding [5:05]
21. Provocations [5:50]
22. Playing "Veronika" [4:15]
23. Veronika's Last [5:57]
1. The Best Hedda Gabler [4:50]
2. Sybille Schmitz [2:27]
3. Working With Fassbinder [7:55]
4. Sunset Boulevard [4:19]
5. A Good Partner [4:06]
6. The Golden Bear [5:47]
1. 1909-1926: Childhood and Youth [7:27]
2. 1927-1931: Films With Pabst and Dreyer [5:32]
3. 1932-1935: UFA Star [8:27]
4. 1936: Wisbar's Fährmann Maria [6:24]
5. 1937-1939: Dancing on the Volcano [11:07]
6. 1946-1949: Hoping for a Second Chance [6:31]
7. 1950-1954: A Broken Woman [6:31]
8. 1955: Death in Munich [3:12]
Side #3 -- Lola
1. Logos/Opening Credits [3:32]
2. Clean Hands [5:56]
3. Where the Money Is [3:10]
4. New Building Commissioner [3:40]
5. Sense of Duty [6:56]
6. Thirty Bottles of Champagne [8:40]
7. Whores and Ming Vases [3:49]
8. Birds of Prey [9:28]
9. A New Suit [9:05]
10. Businesslike Opportunities [6:35]
11. An Inventive Dinner [7:54]
12. Dreams of the Future [5:46]
13. Bidding for Lola [3:00]
14. "The Fishermen of Capri" [6:52]
15. Flowers for Von Bohm [:08]
16. Man to Man [6:13]
17. "Cui Bono?" [4:41]
18. Provocation [2:11]
19. Extra [4:19]
20. Proud Citizens [4:38]
21. Lola's Wedding Day [3:32]
1. The Blue Angel [3:32]
2. Barbara Sukowa [5:56]
3. Fassbinder's Contradictions [3:10]
4. Armin Mueller-Stahl [3:40]
5. Working Method [6:56]
6. Fassbinder's Loves [8:40]
7. Anarchism [3:49]
8. The World as Will and Imagination [9:28]
9. Von Bohm in the Mirror [9:05]
10. The "Exile Generation" [6:35]
11. Mirrors and Petra Von Kant [7:54]
12. Bakunin [5:46]
13. All That Heaven Allows [3:00]
14. Mutual Dependence [6:52]
15. Politics and Sexuality [:08]
16. The RAF [6:13]
17. Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven [4:41]
18. Mother Kusters Continued [2:11]
19. The "Happy" Ending [4:19]
20. Fassbinder and Feminism [4:38]
21. Hypocrisy? [3:32]
1. Salesgirls and Whores [3:33]
2. Working With Fassbinder [1:50]
3. Single Takes [3:40]
4. Germany in the Fifties [7:16]
5. Fassbinder's Style [3:21]
1. Before the Trilogy [4:57]
2. The Marriage of Maria Braun [9:46]
3. Lola [5:25]
4. Veronika Voss [4:19]
5. Living With His Characters [2:54]
6. Rosa Luxemburg [5:43]
Side #4 -- The Supplements
1. Editing With Fassbinder [12:00]
2. Casting the Trilogy [4:44]
3. An Original Lola [3:04]
4. Even the Underwear [2:02]
5. Rainer's Mother [2:55]
6. Fassbinder's Germany [4:34]
7. Fassbinder and Women [3:15]
1. Childhood [7:16]
2. Relationships and Affinities [4:11]
3. Thoughts About Germany [8:39]
4. No Group Without a Leader [4:28]
5. Love and Power [7:47]
6. The Need to Tell Stories [6:53]
7. A Writer's Loneliness [4:33]
8. Freedom in America [4:33]
1. Nothing Is Set in Stone [6:53]
2. I Can't See Him Anywhere [6:17]
3. No Group Without a Leader [6:39]
4. Setting an Avalanche in Motion [10:26]
5. Faster Than the Others [6:27]
6. She Is Now [8:56]
7. Like Heaven or Like Hell [12:11]
8. I Shoot in All Directions [15:57]
9. Everybody Has Their Song [7:48]
10. I Only Had This Allotted Time [14:53]
1. The Chance of a Lifetime [3:20]
2. Berlin Alexanderplatz [5:58]
3. Lili Marleen [:48]
4. Lola [4:06]
5. Veronika Voss [6:53]
6. Querelle [2:49]
7. Beyond Fassbinder [2:55]
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Side #1 -- The Marriage of Maria Braun
   Color Bars
      Commentary: Off
      Commentary: On
      Subtitles: On
      Subtitles: Off
   Hanna Schygulla Interview
   Eric Rentschler Interview
Side #2 -- Veronika Voss
   Color Bars
      Commentary: Off
      Commentary: On
      Subtitles: On
      Subtitles: Off
   Rosel Zech With Juliane Lorenz
   Dance With Death (Tanz mit dem Tod)
Side #3 -- Lola
   Color Bars
      Commentary: Off
      Commentary: On
      Subtitles: On
      Subtitles: Off
   Barbara Sukowa Interview
   Peter Märthesheimer Interview
Side #4 -- The Supplements
   Juliane Lorenz With Laurence Kardish
   Life Stories: A Conversation With R. W. Fassbinder
   I Don't Just Want You to Love Me
   Xaver Schwarzenberger Interview
      Play All
      The Marriage of Maria Braun
      Veronika Voss
      Subtitles: On
      Subtitles: Off
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