One of the more punishing scenes in Die Niklashauser Fart is the one in which Magarethe feeds her husband, played by Franz Maron. It’s all in the miserable colour of the soup and the speed at which she delivers it; the same speed at which she delivers her adoring lines about the prophet Hans Boehm. She leans back ecstatically, while the invalid husband stares towards the end of the bed, the very opposite of her in colour and in presence. Another wonderful marital scene from Fassbinder.
When Franz Maron refuses the soup, the event becomes humorous for his wife, and she begins to force it in. Fassbinder always enjoyed presenting this kind of cruelty, which he thought typically representative of in particular, marriage. The wife is all but openly unfaithful; the husband is impotent, emotionally or as presented here, literally helpless.
What it allows us to see however is how the religious fanatic can take advantage of this couple; the willing wife and the helpless husband. Thus the revolutionary shepherd is only too keen to stay in this fine house with this fine woman, when of course a lesser dwelling would have done. But that’s it; everyone is out to get what they can. This turns up again and again throughout Fassbinder; the idea that the revolutionaries are just as greedy as anybody else, and more than willing to take advantage of a situation and couch it in the most favourable terms; here: ‘The Holy Virgin has allowed me to make your home mine. But she insisted that my friends join me.’ And I bet it was just like that when it came to accommodation in the revolutionary West Germany of 1970.
When Margit Carstensen introduces Franz Maron’s character, she sums him up as stupid, old and sick; ‘and he can’t speak’; making it quite obvious whys eh married him in the first place. It’s odd how the camera pans around the bedroom where he lies, where most directors would invariably cut and cut again to highlight what’s of interest. But this is theatre as well as cinema; and Fassbinder viewers should always bear this in mind; which is why the shot ends with a stunning tableau of actors, something out of Godard, out of Cocteau, something most people would consider most un-cinematic; and thus something of interest to Fassbinder.
Maron has a perfect face for a murder victim. And the scene in which he is murdered is so very bathetic; the strangest start to a revolution there could be; in theatrical terms however, a tableau.