The film starts with Maria getting married to soldier Hermann right on the street - the registrar's office had just been blown up by advancing Allies. It's the last few days of the war in Europe, and Hermann is asked to report back to duty after half a day and one night's marital bliss. When he's reported as missing in action, Maria refuses to believe he's dead, and decides to live in hope. But for that she needs to survive among the debris of war. She works at a bar frequented by American soldiers, and befriends a black sergeant who showers her with gifts and falls in love, but she refuses his marriage proposal, saying, "I'm fond of you, but I'm in love with my husband".
The husband returns unexpectedly, but ends up in prison under dramatic circumstances. Maria visits Hermann in prison regularly and assures him she will become successful and rich by the time he is released. She now befriends a French industrialist and ends up working as his private secretary, later to have an affair with him, even becoming heiress to his fortune. Maria is determined to succeed and live for her husband, even if that requires having affairs with other men, and foreigners too. In fact, Maria the character is a parable for post war Germany itself, and the enforced break-up of the country into East and West.
The film is very well written, and the sharp-witted dialogues makes it a very fine satire. Even though I'm just scratching at the surface, I'm beginning to throroughly enjoy Fassbinder. It is also amazing to see how much he puts into each of his films, considering he was a prolific filmmaker churning out films in quick succession, and with swift production schedules too. The film also features his regular muse and long-term friend Hanna Schygulla in the title role of Maria. This superb actress with oodles of class gives a sterling performance here.
The compilation below was cut from my DVD and includes some of the best scenes of Hanna Schygulla. The DVD also came with some surprising extras, including an very interesting retrospective of women in Fassbinder's films. Highly Recommended Viewing!
- Maria with her doctor - she needs a medical certificate before she can take up a job as a waitress.
- Nice scene of Maria with her American lover.
- The doctor confirms Maria's pregnancy and she shocks him by informing who the child's father is.
- Two successive scenes of Maria with her rich employer.
- Hermann finally returns home, and Maria caught by surprise, is afraid of the thought of having to live with someone she had loved all along, but has only lived with for half a day and a night as a wife.
- This is a totally unexpected scene in a restaurant, of a waitress (actress uncredited) being liberally groped by a waiter while Maria is throwing up in the background.