Perhaps one of the most haunting and compelling parts of Sanders-Brahms’ film Germany Pale Mother (1979) is the nearly twenty minute long telling of The Robber Bridegroom. The structual purpose of the sequence is a bridge between the marriage of Lene and Hans, who battles at the war’s front, and the decline of the marriage during the post-war period. Symbolically the fairy tale, called the “mad monstrosity in the middle of the film,” by Sanders Brahms (Kaes, 149), offers a diagetic forum for with which to deal with the crimes of Nazi Germany, as well a internally fictional parallel of Lene’s marriage.
The fairy tale begins with a miller betrothing his daughter to the first suitable man who comes along. The man choosen happens to live deep in the forest, and fills the daughter with dread everytime that she sees him. One day, the suitor demands that his bride come visit him at home. When she tells him she does not know the way, he says he with spread the path to his house with ashes. Nodoubt this fictional element is meant to invoke sadistic images of Nazi Germany and the use of ashes of cremated concentration camp inmates for road construction. The daughter does follow the path with great unease, however, as she follows the path she marks it with peas. She finally comes to the house, and is promptly warned by a bird that she is entering a house of murderers. The girl enters and house and finds it almost entirerly deserted. However, in the basement she finds an old women who repeats the bird’s warning. The crone then prphesizes that the girl will marry death and her bridegroom only seeks to kill her, cut her pieces up, and eat her. As the two prepare to escape, the bridegroom and his band of theives return with maiden [virgin]. The old woman hides the girl behind a large barrel. From her hiding place, she whitnesses the thieves give the maiden three glasses of wine to stop her heart. They then rip her clothes off, and hack the body into pieces with axes. On of the murders notices the girl wears a gold band, but cannot pull it off her finger. He cuts off thefinger which flies from the table and lands in the girls lap. Before the thieve can look for it, the crone offers them some wine, which she has laced with a sleeping potion. The thieves fall prey to the potion and sleep deeply. The g...
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...lms. She includes several other references besides the long narration of the fairy tale. Soon after Lene and Hans get married, Lene pricks her finger on a curtain needle. This is symbolic of Sleeping Beauty and her loss of innocence by pricking her finger on a spinningwheel spindle. Anna also speaks of herself and her mother as witches on several occasions; which furthers the fairy tale motif.
So in the end it is to be asked what is so important about trying to intertwine Germany Pale Mother with established fairy tales. I propose that it is part of the defensive mechanism Sanders-Brahms uses in dealing with the crime’s of her parents generation, and making sure that it is not forgotten. Fairy tales are timeless pieces of literature. As Anton Kaes wrote, “... fairy tales stand outside of history, they confront us directly with unconscious impulses and let us project into them our own wishes and fantasies. (Kaes, 149).
Kaes, Anton. From Hitler to Heimat. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1992: pp148-150.
Sanders-Brahms, Helma. Germany Pale Mother (Deutschland bleiche Mutter), Helma Sanders-Brahms Filmproduktion, 1979.
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