In 1943, in the midst of an Allied bombing raid, Maria (Schygulla) marries the soldier Hermann Braun (Lowitsch). After just one night together, he returns to the front and is presumed dead after the war. Maria starts an affair with American G.I. Bill (Byrd), who takes care of her and her mother. When Hermann shows up very much alive, Maria’s life gets turned upside down.
A troubled shoot, including budget shortfalls and the director’s drug use, nevertheless resulted in a rich allegorical tale of post-war Germany. Maria stands in for the country, a determined survivor despite the crushing defeats in her past. Schygulla, whose relationship with Fassbinder spanned 20 films, won a slew of awards for her bold, memorable performance. Sadly, the prolific Fassbinder died young, but left behind over 30 features, including this artful drama.