For better or worse, when you make a period piece you are judging the past. Often the judgement is positive. Weren't things so much better back in the day? This rose colored perspective almost always ignores the various horrors that were going on during the time period in question. As a German man born almost immediately after the end of World War II, Rainer Werner Fassbinder has nothing good to say about the past. Using Maria Braun as a stand-in for the entire country, Fassbinder paints a very bleak portrait of post-war Germany. Not only is Maria an opportunist who will do anything to move forward financially, she also continues to carry a torch for her missing/imprisoned Nazi husband. An entire Nation doesn't just suddenly change their prejudices or impulses overnight and the "progress" of today is often built on a rotten foundation. Fassbinder never wants us to forget that.