Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven (Mutter Kusters Fahrt zum Himmel)

Institute History

  • 1997 Sundance Film Festival


The original version of this film created such a furor in Germany that Fassbinder shot a new, less strident ending. Mother Küsters is one of his few films to deal with contemporary German politics, and no ideological persuasion emerges unscathed. The story concerns a naive elderly woman whose husband goes berserk one day at work and kills his supervisor and himself. Every-one she turns to for help and support betrays her or uses her for their own self-interested ends.

First there’s a journalist who acts sympathetic and then writes a scurrilous article. Next her communist neighbors promise to restore her husband’s good name, but they end up doing nothing. Finally, she turns to an anarchist, who stages a sit-in which explodes into violence at the office of the magazine which printed the article. In the original ending, she is also killed, but the revision has her going home with a lonely janitor to share his company and some supper. In spite of its blackly satirical portrait of German political ideology, Mother Küsters creates a warm and sympathetic portrait of its protagonist, largely because of Brigitte Mira’s genuinely touching performance. Emma Küsters handles all her setbacks with undaunted good humor and gains knowledge and insight from her experience, although she remains a political novice.

— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

  • Section: Rainer Werner Fassbinder: Modern Renaissance Man
  • Film Type: Dramatic Feature
  • Country: Germany
  • Run Time: 134 min.
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