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Rainer Werner Fassbinder had been wanting to adapt Theodor Fontane s classic German novel Effi Briest ever since he first picked up a film camera. Originally intended to be his feature debut, the project took years to get off the ground and finally surfaced in 1974, in the process becoming his most expensive production to date as well as one of his most ambitious.

Dubbed the German Madame Bovary , Effi Briest tells of a seventeen-year-old girl (played by Hanna Schygulla) who is married off by her parents to a wealthy Baron (Wolfgang Schenk) more than twice her age. Lonely and dissatisfied, she seeks solace in the companionship of her husband s friend, Major Crampas (Ulli Lommel).

Beautifully recreating late nineteenth century Germany and gorgeously shot in black and white, Effi Briestalso serves to showcase Schygulla, here giving her first star performance for Fassbinder. Official Synopsis


 Effi Briest

Video


The black and white visuals here look absolutely stunning. Fresh, clean and full of life. Textures look amazing when the characters are bathed in natural light and even within darkened locations they often manage to thrive.  Black levels are great and the detail on show here within costumes and set decoration often looks reference quality. Once again most of this occurs in external scenes, interior scenes look a little flatter and muted but still hold alot of detail and light sources show off elements well.

The presentation excells in wider exterior scenes. There's a scene with two characters walking g across a field, thick with foliage, high grass and mist and it looks great. Foreground bare trees cross the screen with deep black detail and the various layers of grey and white in the frame are crisp and full of life, modernising the film with an ageless beauty as all good HD restorations should.

 Effi Briest

Audio


The film holds some narration which is crisp and central and the dialogue within the film holds up just as well. The film is once again, quiet a quiet affair with mundane sou d effects such as ticking clocks and tweeting birds giving the track a wider feel. There's the odd bit of score that holds a little more power but generally this is a simple track.

 Effi Briest

Extras


The commentary by Ken Moulden discusses Fassbinder's 23rd film and covers plenty of detail regarding it. There's a few quiet gaps and a a lot of him telling us what is happening on screen but between that he fleshes out the film and Fassbinder's approach well.

'Interview with Ulli Lommel' (06:45 HD) explains why the actor thinks Effi Briest is Fassbinder's masterpiece, amongstother things.

'Interview with Jurgen Jurges' (10:44 HD) discusses the film further and Fassbinder himself of course..

 Effi Briest

Overall


This is a film told like any classic period drama is but with some choice framing from Fassbinder that seems to study the characters in interesting ways. There's a lot of alternative angles via mirrors or reflections and silent moments of characters in thought or in waiting for something and they lift the film from being a basic period drama set up and into something a little more thoughtful or arty. This was my last Fassbinder review and I found Effi Briest to be my most rewarding watch. It leaves behind the more experimental side of Fassbinder and puts all his strengths to good use with a focused story, told confidently. The film looks beautiful in HD with strong sound and a good set of extras to add a bit more background.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
 Effi Briest
 Effi Briest


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