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Mother Küsters Goes To Heaven (free)

  • Chazen Museum of Art 750 University Avenue Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1975 film examines the media and political exploitation of a tragedy. Info


In Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1975 political drama Mother Küsters Goes To Heaven, Emma "Mother" Küsters (Brigitte Mira) cooks dinner for her quiet, lower-class family shortly before learning her husband, Hermann, has killed his boss and himself. Everyone interprets the tragedy differently, and the resulting frenzy finds Emma exploited on all sides. The right-wing media hounds the Küsters family, Hermann's factory refuses to support the widow, and her children simply move on. Emma's son and his wife (Irm Hermann) escape the fallout on vacation, while her estranged daughter (Ingrid Caven) bolsters a questionable singing career with the media's portrayal of her father as a bloodthirsty bully. An emotionally vulnerable Emma then falls in with a bourgeois communist couple (Karlheinz Bohm and Margit Carstensen), who at first provide much-needed sympathetic ears before using her story for clout in upcoming elections.  Finally, it seems a young anarchist can clear the Küsters name with a good old sit-in, which leads to the violent, depressing German ending, told in title cards on a close-up of a horrified Emma, and the heart-warming, inspirational US-release ending, which would play as corny in a less flexible director's hands. Either way, Fassbinder successfully critiques the movement of information in a democratic society, as individuals and institutions react to and reframe an event they didn't see. —Reid Kurkerewicz

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