Rainer Werner Fassbinder's The Marriage of Maria Braun is one of the finest movies this prolific German director has made. It is the story of a shrewd and ambitious woman who uses her sexual gifts as a means of achieving success. While her husband (Klaus Lowitsch) is off to war and presumed killed in action, Maria takes up with a black G.I. (George Byrd). She murders the American when her husband returns. He goes to prison in her stead. Maria then enters into a business venture with a rich entrepreneur and rises to power in the company before sleeping with him.
Hanna Schygulla's performance as Maria Braun is a multilayered triumph expressing the character's amorality, greed, cynicism, and narcissism. The film can also be read as a political parable on the decadence of postwar Germany.