Effi Briest is one of Fassbinder's least characteristic works — and, in the opinion of many critics, one of his finest. An elegant and eminently literary adaptation of Theodor Fontane’s 1895 novel, shot in luminous black-and-white, the film stars Fassbinder favourite Hanna Schygulla as a vivacious 17-year-old forced into an arranged marriage with a stern Prussian aristocrat twenty years her senior. Early in the marriage she has a fleeting and unhappy affair with a young officer; six years later, her husband discovers the indiscretion, and feels duty-bound to restore his honour. Fassbinder makes impressive use of voice-over, titles, and unusual fades-to-white to capture the narrative structure of his 19th-century source. One significant deviation from Fontane’s original is the subtitle Fassbinder appends to the title of the work, to underscore its main theme: "Effi Briest, or Many who have an inkling of their possibilities and needs nonetheless accept the prevailing order in their head in the way that they act, and thereby strengthen and confirm it absolutely." "Fassbinder's masterpiece ...One stands amazed by the fanatic talent of Fassbinder’s faithful acting troupe, the moving elegance of the photography, the beauty of the art direction” (Penelope Gilliatt, The New Yorker). B&W, 35mm, in German with English subtitles. 141 mins.
"Nothing... quite prepares one for the special pleasures of this beautiful, ironic, intentionally literary-sounding film."New York Times | full review
"Fassbinder's masterpiece... One stands amazed by the fanatic talent of Fassbinder’s faithful acting troupe, the moving elegance of the photography, the beauty of the art direction.”The New Yorker | full review