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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Literature > German TV > The Stationmaster's Wife

The Stationmaster’s Wife


Picture: C     Sound: C+     Extras: C-     Film: B-



When Rainer Werner Fassbinder decides to take on a literary classic like Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, you know it is not just going to be another dull exercise in adaptation.  However, his 1977 television production turned 1983 feature film version called The Stationmaster’s Wife transplants the book to soon-to-be-Hitler’s Germany and at the same time, seems to want to be a kind of corollary to the huge hit film Bob Fosse Musical Cabaret from 1972.  Elisabeth Trissenaar is Hanni Bolwieser, the title character (in either case) who is so stuck to her husband (Kurt Rabb) as to be more or less enslaved.  However, that situation is about to change.


She has a series of affairs and her passions are out of control for reasons of her own and her situation.  Chaos ensues, while the more blatant chaos of Nazism looms all over the place.  However, this is a tale of personal struggles and passions, which Fassbinder does with his usual, exceptional Douglas Sirk-inspired lushness.  Yes, there are hints of melodrama, but Fassbinder walks a fine line between that and a new reality he created in the New (West) German Cinema movement for which he was at the forefront.  Though not the 200 minutes of the TV version, this 111 minutes version is solid enough and a nicely twisted take on a literary classic that may be played out a bit in scholarly circles.


The 1.33 X 1 image is a bit dulled, likely because the transfer is second generation from the longer TV materials.  Like another more famous German TV production that became a famous feature film, Wolfgang Petersen’s Das Boot, this may not be the last version of this title we’ll see.  This is passable otherwise, though does not do total justice to the cinematographer of Michael Ballhaus (who gets co-credited in that role), you can still see the good work in this analog transfer.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is a little better, with optional English subtitles.  The only extras are four trailers for other New Yorker product.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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