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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.
Effi Briest (1974)

Effi Briest (1974)

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Released 12-Mar-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-by Dr Ken Moulden, Dept. of Germanic Studies, Uni. of Sydney
Trailer-The Ax
Trailer-The Five Obstructions
Trailer-Grizzly Man
Booklet-Effi Briest, an essay by Justin Vicari
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 134:55 (Case: 322)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:42) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Madman Entertainment
Starring Hanna Schygulla
Wolfgang Schenck
Ulli Lommel
Lilo Pempeit
Herbert Steinmetz
Irm Hermann
Karlheinz Bohm
Karl Scheydt
Barbara Lass
Rudolf Lenz
Andrea Schober
Eva Mattes
Theo Tecklenburg
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI Box Music Fritz Muller-Scherz

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, Minimal
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

Effi Briest was director Rainer Werner Fassbinder's dream picture. This was the movie he wanted to shoot when he first started making movies in 1969 but realised that he needed a bigger budget. The story is an adaptation of a famous novel by Theodor Fontane written in 1894 about the struggles of a young woman coming to terms with her social status in late 19th century Prussian society. Fassbinder's adaptation was the 4th film version of the novel. Fassbinder is faithful to the book because he could relate to the pro-feminist movement of the times and he felt that Fontane was equally critical of the social pressures that society places upon the independent choices of women. The book is widely known and studied in Germany and is considered in literary circles as part of a loose trilogy of 19th century novels on marriage from a female's point of view (the others being Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary).

  The main theme of Effi Briest, that marriage can be repressive and thereby forces women to conform to societal norms or face ostracism, is a theme that is repeated in many Fassbinder films. Fassbinder had hoped that this movie would be a huge critical, international success and would propel him to making international pictures with bigger budgets, alas, it wasn't until the release of The Marriage of Maria Braun in 1979 that Fassbinder received the international critical acclaim that he had coveted throughout his career. The late 19th century era that the film is set in alienated audiences at the time, they could not relate the themes of the film to the social changes that were taking place in Germany in mid-1970s.

  Perhaps the title character Effi Briest (played by Hanna Schygulla) is too repressed in this film, everywhere she turns she faces a dead end, without hope to change her role as the submissive wife of a man who belongs to the social upper-class and is twice her age, Baron Geert von Instetten (played by Wolfgang Schenck). The film was indeed criticised at the time as been anti-feminist for this reason.

  Despite the difficult subject matter, Effi Briest shows Fassbinder's maturity as a director. This production took 60 days to shoot and 2 years to complete, the difficulty to finish the film made Fassbinder resolve to continue to make films in the late 1970s with similar themes as presented here.

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Transfer Quality


  The Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation, has created an outstanding transfer from a restored print, personally supervised by filmmakers Wim Wenders and Juliane Lorenz. This transfer therefore is the same as the restored dvd transfers present in Region 1 and Region 2.

  The aspect ratio of the film is 1:33:1 fullscreen.

  The image is sharp with a muted contrast to reflect the period that the movie represents.

 The film is presented in black and white, with emphasis on lighter white shades of colour, even the transitions of scenes fade to white.

  Due to the restoration artefacts are minimal. The movie takes up an amazing 7.36 gb of a dual layer DVD disc with an average bitrate of 7.45mb/sec. Therefore, there are no compression issues with this transfer whatsoever. Lines appear at 2:22, 5:55, 17:49 and 28:53. White film artefacts appear at 26:22 and 119:44. Black film artefacts are present briefly at 61:07 and the transfer has mild telecine wobble at 62:49 and 62:57.

  Subtitles are displayed in a strong, yellow font. Personally I prefer more subtle, white fonts but at least in this case the subtitles are optional so you can enjoy the movie in the original German soundtrack if desired.

  RSDL change occurs at 67:42 during a scene intertitle, thus it is hardly noticeable.

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


  Dialogue for this film has been post-dubbed as was common in German cinema for the period that the film was shot. Sometimes Fassbinder wanted a different tone of voice for an actor, in fact very few actors in this film provide their own voices.

  There are two audio tracks, the first is a German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track encoded at 224 kbps and the second one is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track for the audio commentary. This track is encoded at 448 kbps, an encoding usually reserved for a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Why the commentary is encoded at 448 kbps is unknown, suffice to say that it takes up half a gigabyte of space on the DVD when it should only be a quarter of a gigabyte!

  The dialogue is sometimes not synchronised as mentioned above, however it is clear and audible.

  Music in the film tends to be diagetic, there is a minor background soundtrack but it is used sparingly because Fassbinder sought to present the novel as closely as possible via dialogue. For this reason also, a narrative voiceover links scenes and fills in plot holes.

  Due to the Dolby Digital mono soundtrack there is no surround channel usage.

The Subwoofer is not utilised either.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Audio Commentary by Dr Ken Moulden, Department of Germanic Studies, University of Sydney.

 This commentary must rank as one of the best I have ever heard. This is a significant statement and is not an exaggeration, I have heard many commentaries in my appreciation of films over the years and Dr Moulden's efforts here are outstanding in terms of research, insight, relevance, tone and pacing. There is barely a moment that the commentary experiences a gap. Dr Moulden discusses the difficulty of the production, the aspirations that Fassbinder had envisioned for the film, the link between the screenplay and the novel, the motivations of the characters and its related social significance to 19th century Prussian society and even the reasons why Hanna Schygulla did not appear in a Fassbinder film for another 5 years! (She returned to take the lead role in The Marriage of Maria Braun) This commentary will provide you all the background information necessary to enjoy the film after you have viewed it with the original soundtrack.

Trailer (1:36)

 A Directors Suite trailer for The Ax by Costa Gavras.

Trailer (1:31)

 A Directors Suite trailer for The Five Obstructions by Lars Von Trier.

Trailer (2:45)

 A Directors Suite trailer for Gerry by Gus Van Sant.

Trailer (2:25)

 A Directors Suite trailer for Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog.

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 tended to be released as part of a box set in other regions. This may be because Fassbinder's creative output was so extensive for such a short career. In summary Effi Briest is presented:

 In Region 1 (USA) as a standalone release with a booklet.

 In Region 2 (France) as part of a box set with documentaries and interviews.

 In Region 2 (United Kingdom) as part of a box set with documentaries and interviews.

 In Region 2 (The Netherlands) as a standalone release with a documentary.

 In Region 4 (Australia) with an expert audio commentary and a booklet.

 All the releases use the restored master transfer undertaken by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation. In my opinion, if you are a fan of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's work or of New Wave German cinema you can't go past the only release that contains an extensive and detailed, well-researched audio commentary, that being Region 4.


 Effi Briest does not represent the apex of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's career but it does offer a glimpse of his style that he used in his most famous international pictures in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Effi Briest is the first film in Madman Entertainment's Directors Suite box set of Fassbinder's work 'On Melodrama', together with the made-for-television films Martha and Fear of Fear. All three films share the same theme of the conflict between societal conformity and repression.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Saturday, April 18, 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