The Faustian Theme in Fassbinder's The Marriage of Maria Braun
Goethe's Faust has bequeathed to following generations the tantalizing, romantic notion that vital living is constituted by continually deferred satisfaction, by a series of animating and enabling desires that pursue one another without contentment. At the moment he was content to linger with his life, Faust was to have lost it. Indeed, in the romantic century and a half since Goethe's day, the very words "contentment" and "satisfaction" have taken on connotations of bourgeois smugness and
... s smugness and materialism. Those easily contented are the living dead, the "bastards" Sartre brilliantly parodied in Nausea. Those readily satisfied are the middle-aged, middle-class uncommitted ones ambling in the limbo of Eliot's Wasteland. It is easy to forget the interesting terms by which Goethe forgave his Faust: salvation through a woman's love, or rather, das ewig Weibliche, the eternal feminine, something completely "other" which "pulls us on," standing in for our imperfectly scrupulous desire. Taken together, these two motifs, an inability or refusal to satisfy the basic desires by which we live and our hope of salvation through an eternal other, form a myth of our modern predicament. The lineaments of this myth can be traced in works as diverse as Nadja and Lolita. Film offers us further examples in That Obscure Object of Desire and The Story of Adele H.