Overall | Effi Briest (1974) | Martha (1974) | Fear of Fear (Angst vor der Angst) (1975)

On Melodrama (Directors Suite) (1974)

On Melodrama (Directors Suite) (1974)

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Released 12-Nov-2008

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Overall Package

   The Region 4 Directors Suite release of the box set On Melodrama represents great value in terms of a quality release for experiencing Rainer Werner Fassbinder's films. These films by Fassbinder have been unavailable in Region 4 prior to their release by the Directors Suite label. The addition of quality extras on the On Melodrama box set, together with other Fassbinder films released by Directors Suite in late 2008 and early 2009, means that the Region 4 fan is able to acquire films by Fassbinder that outrate releases from other regions. Only a release by the premium Criterion label in the USA could equal these releases of Fassbinder's work in Region 4.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
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Overall | Effi Briest (1974) | Martha (1974) | Fear of Fear (Angst vor der Angst) (1975)

Effi Briest (1974)

Effi Briest (1974)

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Released 12-Mar-2008

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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-Gerry
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
Studio
Distributor

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

Video

  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
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

  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
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

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.

Summary

 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)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© 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)

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Overall | Effi Briest (1974) | Martha (1974) | Fear of Fear (Angst vor der Angst) (1975)

Martha (1974)

Martha (1974)

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Released 12-Mar-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-by Dr. Adrian Martin, Senior Research Fellow at Monash Uni.
Interviews-Cast-The Sadist's Smile: an interview with Karlheinz Boehm
Booklet-an essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum, film critic
Theatrical Trailer-Trailer for the 1995 theatrical re-release
Trailer-The American Friend
Trailer-The Child
Trailer-The Science of Sleep
Trailer-Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 111:49
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (71:20) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Margit Carstensen
Karlheinz Böhm
Barbara Valentin
Peter Chatel
Gisela Fackeldey
Adrian Hoven
Ortrud Beginnen
Wolfgang Schenck
Günter Lamprecht
El Hedi ben Salem
Rudolf Lenz
Kurt Raab
Elma Karlowa
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI Box Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, Minimal throughout the film
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

        For those of you who are familiar with Rainer Werner Fassbinder's movies, you would no doubt know that he was a huge fan of Douglas Sirk's melodramatic films for Universal Pictures in the 1950s (Magnificent Obsession, All that Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind, The Tarnished Angels, Imitation of Life to name a few). Fassbinder's homage to Sirk can be seen in Martha when the main character, Martha (played by Margit Carstensen) quotes an address at the beginning of the film as being on "Douglas Sirk Street". In the screenplay, Martha's last name is given as 'Hyer', the surname of a minor character in Sirk's last film for Universal, Imitation of Life. Where Fassbinder's homage to Sirk's work differs is in the endings, Sirk films all ended on a happy note or an act of redemption or reconciliation. Fassbinder's films however are all tragedies, the only happy characters in a Fassbinder film are the ones ignorant of the bad news that's coming or going on around them.

        Martha also stars Karlheinz Boehm, famous for his lead role in the misunderstood psychological thriller by Michael Powell, Peeping Tom. This film was savaged critically in 1960, today it has been re-evaluated as been ahead of its time, especially in the way that Boehm portrays the main character, Mark Lewis, as a sadistic person who somehow draws empathy for his character from the audience because of his upbringing. This may be why audiences were so upset in 1960, no-one wants to empathise with someone who wilfully hurts other people, either on a conscious or subconscious level. In Martha Boehm plays Helmut Salomon, a successful dam engineer and builder. He likewise is a methodical person and also sadistic in the way he controls Martha through his psychological manipulations and his implied violent, sexual behaviour. Be warned, there is no let-up in Boehm's performance, he is coldly manipulative until the end, (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) to the point that Martha is convinced that Helmut loves her yet wants to possibly kill her.

        In the end Fassbinder and Carstensen differed in their views on the outcome of Martha's marriage to Helmut. Fassbinder argued that Martha got what she wanted, a masochistic relationship, reliant upon a domineering power-hungry man, Carstensen felt that Martha becomes resigned to Helmut's manipulative display of love. Either way, this is no Douglas Sirk redemptive tale, yet it is melodramatic all the way.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This film was made specifically for a television release. It was shot with 16mm cameras, as a result the transfer is slightly soft and at times grainy.

    The aspect ratio is 1:33:1, the standard aspect ratio that Fassbinder used prior to his 'international' period in the late 1970s (the time when he made pictures with bigger budgets).

    The film's image is also blurry in places, again this may have been a deliberate creative decision as the cinematographer, Michael Ballhaus, is a well-known director of photography who went on to do significant films with Martin Scorsese (e.g. The Color of Money, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, The Age of Innocence, Gangs of New York and The Departed).

    Colour is vibrant, however, it looks as though the film has the same transfer that was restored by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation found in other region releases around the world.

    There are no compression issues as the film takes up about 6 gb of disc space on the DVD with an average bitrate of 7.45 m/b per sec. There are some very minor artefacts that pop-up briefly from time-to-time. For a film that was a television release from the mid-1970s, this transfer is outstanding overall, the only significant artefacts I noticed was a white artefact at 4:36, some telecine wobble at 20:33 and a black line across the image at 37:47.

    Subtitles are optional, but they are a bold yellow colour, a softer yellow colour would have been better.

    The RSDL change if occurs at 71:20 during a scene change that fades to black so there is no noticeable interruption to the viewing of the film.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sound quality is very good, there is no discernible hiss or distortion of audio.

    There are two audio tracks. One is the main soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track encoded at 224 kbps and the other is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio commentary also encoded at 224kbps.

    Dialogue is clear throughout, there are no audio synchronisation issues present.

    Music is used very sparingly. There are some classical music pieces used by Max Bruch, Gaetano Donizetti and Orlando di Lasso. The romantic era piece by Bruch is interwoven throughout the film, it sounds deliberately discordant in relation to the visual imagery of mental domestic abuse which best summarises Helmut's and Martha's marriage. Fassbinder uses this effect consistently in his body of work, there are numerous examples of his use of using music to heighten the melodrama of a scene in many of his films.

    As this is presented with the original German mono track, there is no surround channel usage from the speakers.

    The Subwoofer is also not utilised.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary by Dr. Adrian Martin, Senior Research Fellow, Film & Television Studies, Monash University and Co-editor of Rouge film magazine, www.rouge.com.au

    Dr. Martin provides another informative, well-researched commentary on the background to the production as well as providing an analysis of key scenes from the film. He also mentions subtle aspects of the film that are easily missed, for example, Fassbinder's use of mirrors copied from Sirk, a psychological analysis behind the actions of Martha in relation to other key characters, the choreography of movement from the actors in certain scenes to fill the frame of the camera and some insightful observations behind the actions of Helmut and his motivations for being so cold and manipulative. Dr. Martin's commentary is an excellent addition to a viewer's enjoyment and understanding of the movie.

Interviews-Cast- The Sadist's Smile: an interview with Karlheinz Boehm (19.20)

    This is an engaging discussion with Karlheinz Boehm on a number of topics, ranging from his film roles in the 1950s, his work on Peeping Tom and the the influence of Fassbinder on his career. He shares how easily he worked with Margit Carstensen and how he enjoyed that work. This interview is a good addition as an extra but I would have liked Madman Entertainment to have included the interview with cinematographer Michael Ballhaus that is found on other regional releases also.

Booklet - Martha: Fassbinder's Uneasy testament, an essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum, film critic for the Chicago Reader (1987-2007)

    Jonathan Rosenbaum's essay emphasises the sadistic and masochistic nature of the film and the lack of empathy or compassion towards the main characters' motivations means that the film leaves us with a lot of questions at the end. He argues that this was Fassbinder's intention, Carstensen gives her best performance in a Fassbinder film, Rosenbaum argues, because we can't say how much of her behaviour is due to willingly being a victim. The essay enhances the film in the same way Dr.Martin's commentary does, by being insightful and prompting questions from the audience.

Theatrical Trailer (0:44)

     This trailer is short, containing an image of Fassbinder and some intertitles with a voiceover narrative. This was prepared for the 1995 theatrical re-release of the film as the movie was unavailable for 20 years due to copyright disputes with a story by Cornell Woolrich from 1968, For The Rest of her Life.

Trailer (3:28)

     A Directors Suite trailer for The American Friend by Wim Wenders. This film was adapted from the novel Ripley's Game.

Trailer (1:29)

     A Directors Suite trailer for The Child by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

Trailer (2:26)

     A Directors Suite trailer for The Science of Sleep by Michel Gondry.

Trailer (2:00)

     A Directors Suite trailer for Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story by Michael Winterbottom.

R4 vs R1

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

        This film, unlike the first film in the On Melodrama box set from Madman Entertainment's Directors Suite label, Effi Briest, has tended to be released by itself in other regions. This may be because of the fact that the film was unavailable for 20 years due to the legal disputes with Cornell Woolrich's estate. The theatrical re-release in 1995 means Martha may be a Fassbinder work that is more familiar with cineastes than other films by Fassbinder. In summary Martha is presented:

    In Region 1 (USA) as a standalone release with a booklet containing the essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum and a documentary on Fassbinder entitled Fassbinder in Hollywood.

    In Region 2 (The Netherlands) as a single release with the film Fear of Fear and a 19-minute interview with cinematographer Michael Ballhaus.

    In Region 2 (United Kingdom) as part of a box set with the films Lola and Why does Herr r. Run Amok? This box set includes the same documentary found in Region 1, the interview with Michael Ballhaus and the interview found on the Region 4 release with actor Karlheinz Boehm.

    In Region 2 (Germany) as a standalone release with the same extras as found on the Region 2 release in The Netherlands, namely the film Fear of Fear and the interview with Michael Ballhaus.

    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, as the Region 4 release contains the Fassbinder documentary in the box set (found on the third disc on the film Fear of Fear) and the interview with Karlheinz Boehm, yet despite lacking the interview with Michael Ballhaus it contains an expert audio commentary by Dr. Martin which makes the Region 4 release the optimal choice for fans of Fassbinder's cinema.

Summary

    This film may be the twin of the first film in the On Melodrama box set by the Madman label, Directors Suite (i.e. Effi Briest) but it is nowhere near as subtle. It has been presented in a fine package for region 4 and is comes recommended for collectors and film fans familiar with Rainer Werner Fassbinder or the New German Cinema movement of the 1970s.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Monday, April 20, 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
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Effi Briest (1974) | Martha (1974) | Fear of Fear (Angst vor der Angst) (1975)

Fear of Fear (Angst vor der Angst) (1975)

Fear of Fear (Angst vor der Angst) (1975)

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Released 12-Mar-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Fassbinder in Hollywood: a documentary by Robert Fischer
Booklet-Fear of Fear, an essay by Justin Vicari
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 88:11
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Margit Carstensen
Ulrich Faulhaber
Brigitte Mira
Irm Hermann
Armin Meier
Adrian Hoven
Kurt Raab
Ingrid Caven
Lilo Pempeit
Helga Maerthesheimer
Herbert Steinmetz
Hark Bohm
Constanze Haas
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $59.95 Music Peer Raben


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/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
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Fear of Fear is the third film in Madman Entertainment's, Directors Suite label box set, On Melodrama. Unlike the first two features in the box set, Effi Briest and Martha, this film is more a homage to the Alfred Hitchcock suspense thrillers of the 1950s rather than the Douglas Sirk films that Sirk did for Universal Pictures.

    Margot (played by the same lead actress for Martha, Margit Carstensen) is pregnant with her second child. Once she has the baby boy, she finds that she can't cope with the anxiety of raising her children. She feels conflict from the husband's family, her mother-in-law (played by Brigitte Mira, the lead actress of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul) and her sister-in-law (played by Fassbinder regular Irm Hermann) and their expectations of her role in supporting her family. She seeks to alleviate her problems by turning to valium, alcohol, and her local doctor but this doesn't seem to help. The movie is similar to the Hitchcock films of the 1950s in that no reason is given why Margot acts this way. Her husband (played by Ulrich Faulhaber) is gentle and supportive of Margot's illness, while we never quite get who the character Herr Bauer (Kurt Raab) is, the one that Margot labels as crazy. (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Even when Herr Bauer commits suicide at the end of the film you wonder if he was real or a figment of Margot's imagination all along and if so, does Bauer's death mean that Margot is on the road to recovery?

    Fear of Fear is another 'woman's picture', a term to signify a drama presented from the lead actress' point of view. This is similar to Effi Briest and Martha, in fact Fassbinder did a lot of films using this theme. The term 'woman's picture' was first used to describe Douglas Sirk's films for Universal Pictures. (E.g. Magnificent Obsession, All that Heaven Allows, Inherit the Wind, Imitation of Life to name a few.)

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Transfer Quality

Video

This film, like the previous film in the On Melodrama box set, was made for a television release. It was shot with 16mm cameras, as a result the transfer is slightly soft and at times grainy.

The aspect ratio is 1:33:1, the standard fullscreen ratio for television viewing in the 1970s.

The film's image is sharp if comparing it to films released in the 1970s.

Colour is vibrant, it looks similar to the Martha release found on the box set.

There are no significant compression issues, maybe a minor one here and there on certain scenes as the film takes up about 3.8 gb of disc space on the DVD with an average bitrate of 5.86 m/b per sec (Slightly lower than the other two films, Effi Briest and Martha). There are very few minor artefacts that pop-up briefly from time-to-time, alas fewer than Martha . For a film that was a television release from the mid-1970s, this transfer is outstanding overall, the only significant artefacts I noticed were some black artefacts at 3:02, 17:53 and 40:22 and a black line across the image at 2:17. By the way, the end credits are not an example of telecine wobble present on the transfer, rather the end credits move from side-to-side as part of the theme of the film, insanity. This 'wobble' effect is used brilliantly throughout the film to express this theme.

Subtitles are optional, but they are a bold yellow colour, a softer yellow colour would have been better.

There is no RSDL change as the main feature has been put onto the first layer of the DVD.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

The sound quality is very good, there is no discernible hiss or distortion of audio.

There are a single audio track, a German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track encoded at 224 kbps.

Dialogue is clear throughout, there are no audio synchronisation issues present.

Music is used on the soundtrack much more than was the case on Martha. The music is also in the style of Bernard Herrmann's scores that he did for Alfred Hitchcock on his thriller-themed films of the 1950's. The music plays a significant role in emphasising the theme of insanity.

As this is presented with the original German mono track, there is no surround channel usage from the speakers.

The Subwoofer is also not utilised.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Featurette - Fassbinder in Hollywood: a documentary by Robert Fischer (57:06)

This is a documentary produced by Robert Fischer. It includes interviews with Wim Wenders, Michael Ballhaus, Uli Lommell and Hanna Schygulla. The documentary speculates on Fassbinder's possible career development after his international period from 1978 to 1981, was he planning to go to Hollywood? If so, what would have happened? We can't know because Fassbinder did in 1982, but Wenders and Ballhaus do credit Fassbinder in allowing them a foot in the door to work in Hollywood themselves in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Booklet - Fear of Fear, an essay by Justin Vicari

This is an extensive, ornate essay on the themes of the film. Vicari discusses the conflict of madness and death found in the picture, as well as the pressure of Margot's mother-in-law and sister-in-law who spy and comment on everything Margot does (the film present a lot of voyeuristic shots similar to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window). Read this booklet to supplement your understanding of the film after you have viewed it. It is a very informative and insightful read.

Trailer (2:11)

A Directors Suite trailer for La Strada by Federico Fellini.

Trailer (2:20)

A Directors Suite trailer for Land of Plenty by Wim Wenders.

Trailer (1:50)

A Directors Suite trailer for Life is a Miracle by Emir Kusturica.

Trailer (1:59)

A Directors Suite trailer for Mystery Train by Jim Jarmusch.

R4 vs R1

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

This film has been released as a standalone DVD only in Region 1 (USA). In other regions it has been included with Martha as an extra or it has been included amongst a suite of films in a box set, such as the Region 2 release (United Kingdom). In summary Fear of Fear is presented:

In Region 1 (USA) as a standalone release with a booklet containing an essay by Thomas Elsaesser and a filmographies extra.

In Region 2 (The Netherlands) as an extra on the film Martha and a 19-minute interview with cinematographer Michael Ballhaus.

In Region 2 (United Kingdom) as part of a box set with the films Fear Eats The Soul, Effi Breist, Fox And His Friends, Mother Küsters Goes To Heaven, Satan’s Brew , Chinese Roulette and The Marriage of Maria Braun. This box set includes the same documentary found in Region 4, another documentary on Fassbinder's life : Life Stories: A Conversation with Rainer Werner Fassbinder , an interview with Todd Haynes, an interview with Fassbinder from 1977, a featurette on the women in Fassbinder's films: Fassbinder Frauen – The Women of Rainer Werner Fassbinder and two short films from Fassbinder from the mid-1960s: The City Tramp and The Little Chaos.

In Region 2 (Germany) as an extra on the film Martha and a 19-minute interview with cinematographer Michael Ballhaus..

In Region 4 (Australia) with the documentary Fassbinder in Hollywood and a booklet. All the releases use the same transfer released by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation. In my opinion, the Region 4 release with other extras bundled with the films Effi Briest and Martha (e.g. expert audio commentaries, an interview with Karlheinz Boehm, the documentary by Michael Fischer and a 30 page booklet containing an academic essay on each film in the box set) is the best option for Region 4 collectors.

Summary

This film is not as bleak as Martha, nor does it require an appreciation of a classic German novel to better understand it like Effi Briest. This may be why Directors Suite included audio commentaries for those two films. Fear of Fear is an interesting homage to Alfred Hitchcock which stands apart in its style in relation to other films on the box set On Melodrama. The box set overall represents excellent value for fans of Fassbinder's cinema.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Tuesday, April 21, 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
Comments (Add)
Good series - Anonymous