Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 12th, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: West Germany, 1974
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Writers: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Novel Written By: Theodor Fontane
Cast: Hanna Schygulla, Wolfgang Schenck, Ulli Lommel, Lilo Pempeit, Herbert Steinmetz, Ursula Strätz, Irm Hermann, Karlheinz Böhm, Karl Scheydt, Barbara Lass
BluRay released: July 18th, 2016
Approximate running time: 140 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: U (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono German
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £15.99 (UK)
Set in the 19th century, this film chronicles the life a young woman named Effi Briest. The film begins when she is seventeen years old and she is about to marry a much older man Baron von Instetten. From there she has a child, a daughter and she spends most of her time in isolation while her husband is often away on business. Along the way things take a turn for the worse, when she starts spending time with another man while her husband is absent. A few years later her husband is promoted Ministerial Councilor and he then moves the entire family to Berlin. Flash forward after living in Berlin for six years Baron von Instetten is given letters that were written for his wife from the man whom she had an affair with many years before. Then things come to a head when Baron von Instetten challenges his wife’s former lover to duel and after said duel Effi is sent into exile by her husband.
First and foremost, this film is a visuals feast for the eyes. With every inch of every frame carefully crafted to maximum what is going on within said frame. And the black & white imagery lends itself greatly to the performances. Also there is a silent film like quality to the film which uses intertitles.
The narrative is straight forward and easy to follow. And at just under 2 ½ hours there is a deliberate pacing to this film that many viewers will find difficulty to indulge. The characters are well defined and their motivations are never left in doubt. A few themes this film deals with include, isolation, loneliness and guilt.
Performance wise the entire cast are remarkable in their respective roles. With this film’s most mesmerizing performance coming from its leading lady Hanna Schygulla (The Marriage of Maria Braun) in the role of Effi Briest. Her character goes through a massive transformation from the moment we meet her on through the last moments we spend with her. And she delivers an extraordinary performance that perfectly captures the essence of the character.
Other performances of note include, Wolfgang Schenck (World on a Wire) in the role of Baron von Instetten, Ulli Lommel (The Boogey Man) in the role of Effi’s lover Major Crampas and Ursula Strätz in the role of the housekeeper Roswitha, this character also the dual role of being Effi’s closest confidant.
Effi Briest comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. This release has been flagged for progressive playback and the film is presented in its intended 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The transfer for this release has been sourced from a brand new 4K restoration of this film’s original camera negatives. Details look sharp, black and contrast remain solid throughout. Also grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
Extras for this release include, two interviews – the first interview with actor Ulli Lommel (6 minutes 45 seconds) and the second interview with director of photography Jürgen Jürges (10 minutes 44 seconds, in German with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with Ken Moulden.
Topics discussed in the interview with Ulli Lommel include, how he considers this film Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s masterpiece, locations featured in the film, problems that arose while filming and his thoughts about the film.
Topics discussed in the interview with Jürgen Jürges include, how Ali: Fear Eats the Soul his first collaboration with Rainer Werner Fassbinder lead to him working on Effi Briest, how the film originally began production in 1972 and was put on hold with only 1/3 of the film completed at that point, why he did not collaborate with Fassbinder more often and what he likes about shooting films in Black & White.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, the origins of the film, how Rainer Werner Fassbinder originally wanted this film to be the first film he directed and why he had to wait a few years to direct the film, critical reaction to the performances, artistically what Fassbinder what trying to achieve with this film, characters and their motivations, key scenes and his thoughts about the film.
Overall Effi Briest gets an excellent release from Arrow Academy.