Current and Upcoming

Film Faction: Effi Briest

March 22, 2018
8:15 PM
Deutsches Haus, 420 W. 116 St., New York, NY 10027

Oder: Viele, die eine Ahnung haben von ihren Möglichkeiten und Bedürfnissen und dennoch das herrschende System in ihrem Kopf akzeptieren durch ihre Taten und es somit festigen und durchaus bestätigen.

1974. Germany. Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. With Hannah Schygulla, Wolfgang Schenck, Ulli Lommel, Karlheinz Böhm, etc.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Effi Briest (1974) does not merely take up the setting, characters, and plot of Theodor Fontane’s 1894 novel of the same name, it transposes the physical object of the novel itself into cinema. Black-and-white filmstock recalls the monochrome of the printed page. Page-length shots are interrupted at regular intervals by cuts that serve as page turns, scenes by whiteouts that demarcate chapters. Underscoring the film’s pronouncedly literary cinematography is Fassbinder's extensive usage of Fontane’s original prose for dialogue and narration.

Yet as the film’s ominous subtitle demonstrates, Fassbinder is not interested merely in experimenting with form. Central to his adaptation is an exploration of the power and pitfalls of social convention. “Many who have an idea of their possibilities and need nevertheless accept the prevailing order in the way they act, and thereby strengthen and confirm it absolutely” – the grammatical incompleteness of this subtitle is compounded by its generality. Who exactly is guilty of such action? Is it Effi’s parents, who marry their daughter off to a man that unsuccessfully courted her mother a generation prior? Is it Effi’s husband, the cold, principled, career-minded Baron von Instetten? Is it Effi herself, a spirited and spoiled young woman growing weary of the strictures of high society? Or Major Crampus, her dapper and daring confidant?

Join Columbia University’s Deutsches Haus Film Faction for a showing of the film, the second installment in the “VERFILMUNGEN” series and our exploration of filmic adaptations of literary texts. A short talk and discussion (in English) will follow the screening.  

Effi Briest will be shown in German with English subtitles.

Screenings by the Film Faction are free and open to the public. Sponsored by Deutsches Haus Columbia & The Department of Germanic Languages.