A hard-to-find Fassbinder, Martha applies Sirkian melodrama (and elements from Rainer's own relationships?) to a bourgeois marriage whose misogynistic power games amount to domestic sadism. The despicable Helmut seeks control over his sensitive and put-upon wife, some of his insane dictates crossing into dark comedy (such as memorizing a book on concrete engineering). A perverse and brutal film, even for Fassbinder.
An intense and opressing melodrama, horror and opera movie by Rainer Werner Fassbinder based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich, who also wrote "Rear Window". You can watch one of the best camera work by Michael Ballhaus, especially the spinning scene, where Martha and Helmut meets first. Also a great use of opera music by Donizetti vs. Orlando di Lasso. A great Performance by Margit Carstensen.
Cronenberg says film is two people on screen talking, I think film is motion. The Fassbinder-choreographed Ballhaus fouetté is a genius moment that truly vibrates the medium at a higher frequency. Breathtaking, and great art direction for it. I support the director's constant dissection of the machinations of monogamy in society, and I love the melodrama of Martha swiveling her waist, but these people are cartoons!
The thing with Fassbinder is that I often find his films dated and way too bleak (Buñuel, Godard and other great directors have more humour than him), but then I find myself thinking about them weeks later. Martha also have amazing cinematography and, like often with Fassbinder, staging.
At best, we're only ever mitigating the toxicity inherent to social relations. At worst we're pretending it doesn't exist... RWF calls out our hidden inner Marthas & Helmuts; makes us face them. (He, above everyone, lived in the reality of his sadomasochistic dualism). Saw this on Dec 6th, which, here in Canada, just highlighted what happens when we gender that dynamic. Powerfully unpleasant. Böhm was smarmy a.f.