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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Lili Marleen (Directors Suite) (1981)

Lili Marleen (Directors Suite) (1981)

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Released 12-Nov-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-by Dr. Roger Hillman
Theatrical Trailer-Original Theatrical Trailer
Interviews-Crew-Hanna Schygulla on Lili Marleen
Trailer-The American Friend
Trailer-The Child
Trailer-The Science Of Sleep
Trailer-Tristram Shandy: A Cock And Bull Story
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 111:33 (Case: 72)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Madman Entertainment
Starring Hanna Schygulla
Giancarlo Giannini
Mel Ferrer
Karl-Heinz von Hassel
Erik Schumann
Hark Bohm
Gottfried John
Karin Baal
Christine Kaufmann
Udo Kier
Roger Fritz
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Peer Raben

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Rainer Werner Fassbinder was an idiosyncratic, workaholic director who made 41 films in 13 years. He was similar to American director John Cassavetes in that he sought to make films in his own definitive style and often worked with the same actors. He was not a director who shot multiple takes of scenes to attain perfection, rather trusting his actors to produce results with minimal intervention. Cassavetes worked in a similar way, in direct contrast to other directors such as William Wyler and Stanley Kubrick, who made great films through multiple takes of scenes and long shooting schedules but did not have actors work on multiple films. TrevorD mentions in his review on Ali: Fear Eats the Soul that shooting was completed on that movie in two weeks! Hanna Schygulla, the lead actress of Lili Marleen, appeared in 23 of Fassbinder's films.

Fassbinder's filmography can be defined in three different phases. The first represents his Avant-garde era, the second phase his German melodrama phase influenced by auteurs such as Douglas Sirk and the final phase was his International period. Lili Marleen was made after the huge international success of The Marriage of Maria Braun in 1979. Fassbinder was desperate for international and critical recognition of his work for a long time and once he got it some critics argue that he 'sold out' on his film making principles. His budgets increased greatly, Lili Marleen was made on the premise of following in the footsteps of German filmmaking during the late 1920s UFA era when films such as Metropolis was made by Fritz Lang for $200 million in today's currency. Lili Marleen did not carry such a substantial budget but it was shot in English for an international audience and the cinematography, set and costume design shows the expense of this film.

Hanna Schygulla made her last appearance in a Fassbinder film playing Willie, a German singer who falls in love with Robert. (Giancarlo Giannini, famous for playing Renι Mathis in the last two Bond films) Unfortunately for Willie, Robert is Jewish, and even though they reside in Zurich, Switzerland the stigmatism and influence of pre World War II Nazi Germany is a constant threat to their relationship. Robert's father, David (played by Mel Ferrer) is involved with the resistance movement in Germany by protecting Jews seeking to flee Germany and so he actively intervenes to undermine his son's relationship with Willie. After a trip to Berlin, Willie is denied re-entry into Switzerland and is forced to part from Robert. Willie goes on to become a famous singer in Nazi Germany after being discovered by a Nazi Officer. She gains widespread acclaim after singing Robert's song, Lili Marleen which comes to symbolize the war effort of the Third Reich. Despite this, the two lovers seek each other regardless of the risks involved for both.

Interestingly, Fassbinder has a cameo role as Weissenborn, the leader of the German Resistance whilst Gottfried John who plays Aaron, an employee of Robert's father, was instantly recognisable to me from his famous role of General Ourumov in the Bond film - Goldeneye.

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Transfer Quality


    The case of my review copy states that the running time is 72 minutes, in fact the running time is actually some 50 minutes longer than that! The source transfer that the distributor, Madman Entertainment has used seems to be the same one as the Danish Region 2 disc. This transfer has issues that effects it's clarity. This does not reflect negatively on Madman Entertainment's independent and foreign arthouse cinema specialist label, Directors Suite who usually release high-quality DVD releases for a specialist Region 4 market. Although overall the image is weak, Directors Suite have still provided high quality extras to support this release. (More on this below)

    The aspect ratio of the main feature is 1:66:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions. There is slight cropping on the left and right of the frame, this may be to compensate for overscan on 4x3 televisions. For a detailed discussion on what overscan is click here.

    Overall the transfer has light grain and is soft throughout.

    The colour scheme is detailed. This is due to the cinematography, especially in relation to lighting. Michael Balhaus worked extensively with Fassbinder and is in fact uncredited for this feature, however he did indeed work with Xaver Schwarzenberger (the credited cinematographer) on this film. It is no coincidence that indoor, night-time scenes have many light sources within the scene. Also, notice the faces of the two lead actors in the rain at the beginning of the film and how the artificial lighting enhances the emotions of the main characters. Balhaus has gone on subsequently to work with Martin Scorsese on films such as Goodfellas and The Departed. The lighting and shadows on this film is well done.

    Minor Film Artefacts prop up from time to time, with print damage evident at 67:54 and 98:34. A reel change mark is visible at 38:38 and telecine wobble can also be seen at 29:23 and excessively at 102:12 for nearly 30 seconds.

    There are no subtitles during the main feature.

    RSDL occurs at 89:33 in the middle of a scene.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    This is one of Fassbinder's very few films shot in English.

    There is one Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 224 kpbs.

    Dialogue is clear but synchronisation issues are evident due to additional digital recording (ADR) after the film was shot. Dubbing in the New Wave German Cinema era was common, much like the Italian cinema of the 1960's. (For example, Fellini's 8 1/2 or Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy)

    Music tends to be diegetic, i.e. sourced from within the film, especially the title song for which the film is named after, Lili Marleen. There is a suspense theme that runs throughout the film which exaggerates the drama. At times this theme sounds discordant in relation to the background music from the era that the film is set in, the 1940s. This is no doubt a deliberate creative decision by Fassbinder to emphasise the melodramatic nature of the plot.

    There is no surround channel usage as the film is presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track.

    Also, there is no subwoofer use throughout the movie.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Audio Commentary by Dr. Roger Hillman, Associate Professor in Film Studies/German Studies at the Australian National University, Canberra

Dr Hillman's commentary is informative on the background to the production of the film and specific details of the storyline. There are gaps in the commentary, but this is due to the quality of the commentary, Dr Hillman opts not to provide a scene-by-scene description, but an analysis to the film. I enjoyed this commentary, it was indicative of the extras that Madman tend to provide for their Directors Suite releases.

Original Theatrical Trailer

The original theatrical trailer is dubbed in German, but has no English Subtitles! It runs for 3:45.

Interviews-Crew Hanna Schygulla on Lili Marleen

Hanna Schygulla reminisces about the background to the production of the film. This feature is in German with optional English subtitles. It runs for 6:18


A trailer for The American Friend


A trailer for The Child


A trailer for The Science of Sleep


A trailer for Tristam Shandy: A Cock And Bull Story

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The film has been released In Region 2 in France, Denmark and Germany.

The French version has a 1:66:1 non-16x9 enhanced transfer with a French and German dub and French subtitles. There are no extras.

The Danish version has a 1:66:1 non-16x9 enhanced transfer with the original English audio and Danish subtitles. There are no extras.

The German version has a 1:66:1 16x9 enhanced transfer with a German dub and no subtitles. Extras include:

• Menu, Chapter overview

• Memories of Lili Marleen (6 min)

• Juliane Lorenz on Lili Marleen (27 min)

• Interview with Fassbinder (17 min)

• Report of the shooting (4 min)

• Star infos (text panels)

• filmographies (Text panels)

The German version seems to have been restored by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder foundation. The Region 4 release is the only release that contains a commentary. Since the Region 2 German release has no subtitling in English, English-speaking fans of Fassbinder's would have to settle for Region 4 release as the best option for viewing Lili Marleen. German-speaking fans may opt for the Region 2 German release.


    The transfer represents the best source material for the film in English. This was the language version that the film was originally released with. The image is soft and grainy, however the cinematography is excellent.

Audio is sufficient to understand dialogue, although the ADR can be distracting for the viewer if they are not used to dubbed films.

The Extras are not extensive but they provide a rich, informative background to the production of the film.

Lili Marleen does not represent the best of Fassbinder's International period. The best films during this phase of Fassbinder's career form part of the BRD trilogy, namely The Marriage of Maria Braun and Lola. However, Lili Marleen is an example of German New Wave Cinema and fans of Fassbinder's work will not be disappointed to add this film to their collection.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

Other Reviews NONE