Distancing Techniques in Fassbinder’s Effi Briest
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Fontane’s ambiguity and complexity in his novel Effi Briest appealed to Fassbinder’s love of intricate social relations. Fontane presents Effi mainly in a restrained neutral manner although it can be argued that the author’s meta-voice adds some touches of subtle criticism. Fassbinder’s approach to Effi in his film of the novel is more distanced, critical and ironic. Clearly influenced by Brecht’s idea of “Verfremdung”, Fassbinder uses an array of distancing techniques in his film: voice-over narration, fades to white, short episodic scenes, captions, various “framing” devices, cool mannered acting, etc., to prevent empathy and to allow the viewers to draw their own conclusions in a calm detached manner. Although less avant-garde, provocative and extreme than much of his other work, Effi Briest remains a difficult film which challenges the viewer. Fassbinder’s film is radical more in terms of style than content—Effi fails to achieve her potential and cannot be considered a Brechtian heroine. Fassbinder has left us with a dense, richly layered modern masterpiece, far removed from undemanding Hollywood films with their easy empathy and escapism.
KeywordsFontane Fassbinder Effi Briest “Verfremdung” Brecht
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