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1974 1h 56m Drama Mystery & Thriller List
86% Tomatometer 7 Reviews 88% Audience Score 500+ Ratings
A spinster librarian (Margit Carstensen) meets and marries a man (Karlheinz Böhm) who treats her cruelly. Read More Read Less

Critics Reviews

View All (7) Critics Reviews
Stephen Holden New York Times You don't have to agree with its premise -- that middle-class marriage equals sadomasochism -- to respond to the bravura comic glee with which the director lays it out. Jan 15, 2005 Full Review Jonathan Rosenbaum Chicago Reader A horrific black comedy -- a devastating view of bourgeois marriage rendered in a delirious baroque style. Sep 3, 2003 Full Review Ed Gonzalez Slant Magazine Easily the most twisted film of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's career, Martha (a favorite of his frequent cinematographer Michael Ballhaus) catalogs the tyrannical hold a bourgeois husband has over his wife. Rated: 4/4 Sep 2, 2003 Full Review Fernando F. Croce CinePassion An array of domestic terrors Mar 13, 2010 Full Review Dennis Schwartz Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews Acerbic black satire of a bourgeois marriage. Rated: A May 23, 2006 Full Review Christopher Null Fassbinder offers up an extremely bleak work here, even for him, but ultimately the film works mainly as the diatribe against marriage that it is. Rated: 3/5 Dec 9, 2004 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (26) audience reviews
Audience Member More Fassbinder goodness with this 1974 film as we see the central character start out as a happy go lucky woman who feels pressurised to find a man, settle down and adjust to married life. Her own parents are revealed to be in a loveless marriage until Martha's father collapses and dies when he is with his daughter on holiday in Italy.  I'm not going to give away too much about the plot and what happens during the course of the movie as I don't want to blunt the impact of the film but all I'll say is that this is a dark piece of cinema! And I mean DARK! As the concept of coercive control is just starting to be spoken about in the popular media, Fassbinder had made a film about it 1974. And gaslighting. And marital sadism.  A special mention needs to go to Margit Carstensen in the lead role whose performance is nothing short of astonishing as we see her character's spirit and very existence being destroyed and disintegrating before our very eyes. I also didn't know that Karlheinz Bohm had ever depicted a darker character than his star turn in Michael Powell's Peeping Tom. I was sooo wrong! His character here is a sadistic psychopath/narcissist and acted to grimy and reptilian perfection. I remember when I saw the movie Threads for the first time. I thought to myself that it couldn't get any darker but then saw that that it was only halfway through it's running time. I then saw that it could get MUCH darker! The same happened when I watched Martha. This does for marriage and societal expectations for women what Jaws did for sharks. When I watched this I kept thinking to myself 'I'm so glad that I'm gay. And that I'm happily single!' Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 02/19/23 Full Review Audience Member weak play of actors ruin the movie Rated 1 out of 5 stars 01/20/23 Full Review Audience Member Somehow entertaining and incredibly depressing all at once. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/30/23 Full Review Audience Member Martha's father drops dead while they are visiting Italy (on the Spanish Steps) and she meets a stranger in passing at the German embassy (which is heralded with a 720 degree camera spin around them). Only later, after we are introduced to the usual eccentric characters populated in a Fassbinder melodrama, do they become married. After this long prologue, things become very noirish as Helmut (the man) becomes very demeaning and controlling of Martha. She rebels, then submits. This is the dynamic (S - M) in which Fassbinder has long been interested. Only here, he may have a willing or at least perfectly suited victim for the degradation -- and he tightens the screws that much tighter. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/04/23 Full Review Audience Member Sirk-style horror movie of a sadist and his wife. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/18/23 Full Review Audience Member A pathetic woman, a sadistic man, and German art...what a combo. I want Helmut's jammies though! Rated 2 out of 5 stars 02/17/23 Full Review Read all reviews

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Cast & Crew

Movie Info

Synopsis A spinster librarian (Margit Carstensen) meets and marries a man (Karlheinz Böhm) who treats her cruelly.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Peter Märthesheimer
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Production Co
Pro-ject Filmproduktion [de], Westdeutscher Rundfunk
Drama, Mystery & Thriller
Original Language
Release Date (DVD)
Apr 13, 2004
1h 56m