Mar 15, 2013
If a kraut feminist were to remake Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s masterpiece The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978) and, in the process, suck out all the lifeblood, charismatic character, and entertainment value, and replace it with highly personal resentment of males, it would probably resemble the West German film Germany, Pale Mother (1980) aka Deutschland bleiche Mutter written and directed by Helma Sanders-Brahms (Laputa, My Heart Is Mine Alone) – a woman who apparently learned the trick of the cinematic trade by training under Italian maestros Sergio Corbucci (Django, The Great Silence) and Pier Paolo Pasolini (Accattone, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom). Unfortunately, it seems that neither of these delightful dago directors' cinematic genius left any impression on Sanders-Brahms, but she did develop into her own individualistic ‘auteur’ herself and her fiercely feminist, albeit highly personalized, flick Germany, Pale Mother – a work that blames the sons and fathers of the Fatherland for physically and psychologically degrading the female population – is a vaguely audacious semi-nonfiction/semi-autobiographical work about the director’s personal family experience during and immediately following the Second World War. Although originally made under the working title “For Lene” (in tribute to her own mother), Sanders-Brahms ultimately decided to the title the film Germany, Pale Mother after the kraut communist playwright/poet Bertolt Brecht's 1933 poem of the same name, an allegorical work that essentially holds National Socialists (the “sons”) males wholly responsible for the corruption and debasement of Germany via Nazi terror. Somehow transsexualizing the Fatherland into a figurative “Motherland,” Germany, Pale Mother holds the ‘Nazi father’ responsible for the dastardly degradation of the German woman and the German nation in a manner Sanders-Brahms described as follows, “I am telling my parents’ story because I am familiar with it, because it affects me deeply…and because this story is both individual and collective.” And, indeed, the ambivalent-Aryan auteuress, while incorporating sensational fictional elements, uses Germany, Pale Mother to depict the mostly melancholy story of her parents’ early marriage, as well as the her war torn coming-of-age as a child who was literally brought up amongst debris and family depression and where Weltschmerz is passed internally via family as a result of Germany’s apocalyptic defeat during the Second World War and how such physical destruction sired familial destruction. Using her own 2-year-old daughter to play herself as a young child, Sanders-Brahms stated, “I am the daughter of my mother and the mother of my daughter,” thus placing the after-effects of the war on three generations of German women from the same family. Although a fatalistic feminist feature of the exceedingly vagina panegyrizing variety, Germany, Pale Mother is one of the first German World War II films to focus on more than the stereotypical Allied version of history, which was Sanders-Brahms’ main objective and why she dedicated the film to her daughter because, as she told a French interviewer, she wanted her child to know that the era was more than just Hitler, concentration camps, and battles.
During the very beginning of Germany, Pale Mother, Helma Sanders-Brahms attempts to absolve herself of any guilt relating to her dysfunctional family and the infamous legacy of the Third Reich with the following off-screen narration: “I can’t remember anything of the time before my life. I am not guilty for what happened before I was born. I wasn’t around then. It began when my father saw my mother for the first time.” We also learn that the director’s father Hans (played by Ernst Jacobi), “was not the Nazi. That was the other one, his friend,” in an opening shot of the two sub-Nordic pals paddling in a boat. During this same scene, Hans spots a darkhaired women named Lena (Fassbinder graduate Eva Mattes who looks more like Mongolia, Pale Mother) and seems to fall in love at first sight, but he also notices a dead black cat floating in the water, thereupon allegorically symbolizing the decidedly doomed nature of their future relationship. Needless to say, Hans and Lena have the good fortune of being married the day before World War II begins, so at least can delight in one special night together before hubby goes to fight in the Wehrmacht and be involved with killing Slavic women, one (also played by Mattes) of which bares a striking resemblance to his wife and could be her untermensch doppelgänger. As a man who refuses to take free condoms from the army because he “love his wife” and refuses to cheat on her, and is, in turn, made the butt of a joke by his comrades (who play a prank on the man by putting a pile of used rubbers lined up spelling out the word “love” on his bed), Hans is a super sensitive gentleman, so naturally he cries hysterically at the sight of the the executed Lena look-a-like, thus ushering the slow but steady unhinging of his delicate mind. Meanwhile, Lena has a baby while bombs are dropping and soon her house is decimated and turned to rubble. Suffering from some sort of post-traumatic stress syndrome, Hans finally becomes convinced of the importance of the National Socialist cause and during a curiously cold temporary reunion with his wife, he declares to Lena that Germany must accept either “victory or destruction.” Of course, the land of the Teutonic Knights is destroyed, but Lena manages to find childish adventure and romance amongst the rubble and forges a deep maternal bond with her baby daughter. When the war finally ends, the now-destitute family is finally permanently reunited, but a second war begins at the home because the head of the family is no longer right in the head as a virtual walking and talking totenkopf of the terribly traumatized type, belligerently beating his young daughter for calling him a “weirdo” and throwing his wife into a perennial depression. Naturally, the ultimate defeat for Hans is when precious Lena is gang raped by two drunken American G.I.s. As Lena tells her daughter after she witnesses the pudgy American victors’ pillage her pussy, “That’s the right of the victors, little girl. They take things and the women.”
A Trümmerfrau turned diseased and suicidal alcoholic, Lena becomes a dubious archetype for all German women who survived and tried to thrive after the war, whereas the Father is a fallen family Führer that is no longer fit to rule, thus he lunges his failure and resentment at his family. Of course, unlike Fassbinder's The Marriage of Maria Braun, Germany, Pale Mother fails to acknowledge the fact that many German women earned a new sense of integrity and financial independence as a result of the Second World War and the virtual destruction of men which still lives on today, hence how a female filmmaker as artistically and intellectual vapid as Helma Sanders-Brahms, as well as fellow feminist German New Cinema directors like Margarethe von Trotta and Helke Sander, could have any influence on kraut kultur in the first place. Indeed, to describe Germany as a “pale mother” as opposed to the Fatherland that it always was before is the most obvious sign of the death of the German man. The most cowardly and misleading aspect of Germany, Pale Mother is that the film attempts to diminish total responsibility for women’s role and support of the Third Reich, as if they were victims of the patriarch who in no way benefited from nor supported Uncle Adolf. When it comes down to it, women love winners and German men lost the war and acquired the burden of shame and defeat, and one can certainly assume had they won the war, the world would have never seen films like Germany, Pale Mother – a one-woman pity party that glorifies German gals at the expense of the guys who risked their lives and oftentimes died in Stalingrad, North Africa, and various foreign lands around the world, only to later have a stocky and boorish broad like Angela Merkel as the Chancellor of the Fatherland. Indeed, modern day Germany might be an effeminized and cosmopolitan place where women are purportedly taken seriously as artists, but it is awfully ironically that they have yet to produce a filmmaker as great as Leni Riefenstahl – a woman who apparently lived during a misogynistic time. But then again, as Germany, Pale Mother inadvertently demonstrates, female emancipation is always the result of male degeneration and decadence and not some imaginary sort of 'progress' and seeing as Riefenstahl was held to a higher standard, a male's standard, she was able able to totally transcend the sort of narcissistic mediocrity that feminist filmmakers like Helma Sanders-Brahms wallow in, where everything that women are incapable of doing proficiently (i.e. waging war, conquering nations, displaying physical strength, philosophizing with a hammer, etc.) is portrayed as innately evil. Needless to say, the day Germany became mother was the beginning of the end for of the once great Germania.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 10:45 PM
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