Fassbinder’s radical love for self-destruction has likely never been more celebratory than here, as Maria’s lights her whole world on fire. This time, there are no survivors.
Maria spends most of the picture waiting for her husband, Hermann, to come home—first from war, then from prison—and while waiting on happiness, she rises in the business world, amassing a fortune she hopes to one day enjoy with her man. Her real life put on hold, Maria becomes callous, miserly, even mean, yet Fassbinder never looks at her without sympathy. She’s one of the director’s most complex heroines, and Hanna Schygulla plays her for what she was meant to be: the role of a lifetime.