“A country unable to mourn,” Volker Schlöndorff wrote in his journal as he adapted Günter Grass’ novel, The Tin Drum. “Germany, to this day, is the poisoned heart of Europe.” When the film premiered in West German cinemas in early May 1979, it figured within a country’s larger (and, in many minds, long overdue) reckoning with a legacy of shame and violence. Indeed, the Nazi past haunted the nation’s screens, more so than it ever had since the end of World War II. The American miniseries Holocaust aired that year on public television in February and catalyzed wide discussion about Germany’s responsibility for the Shoah. Later that month, Peter Lilienthal’s David gained accolades at the Berlin Film Festival for its stirring depiction of a young Jewish boy living underground in the Reich’s capital during the deportations to the camps. History returned as film; retrospective readings of the Third Reich by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge, Edgar Reitz, Helma Sanders-Brahms, and Hans-Jürgen Syberberg (among others) would become the calling card of the New German Cinema and bring this group of critical filmmakers an extraordinary international renown. In 1979, The Tin Drum won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. A year later, it would become the first feature from the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) to receive an Oscar for best foreign film. Continue reading
Man on Horseback (German: Michael Kohlhaas – der Rebell) is a 1969 German drama film directed by Volker Schlöndorff based on the novel Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich Von Kleist. It was entered into the 1969 Cannes Film Festival.
Another film based on the book is scheduled for release at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. The made-for-TV western “The Jack Bull” (1999) starring John Cusack is also based on von Kleist’s “Michael Kohlhaas.”
Synopsis: It’s medieval times. Kohlhaas merchants with horses. When going to the local fair to sell his horses, is forced by a noble to leave him part of the merchandise as payment for traveling through his land, promising to give it back when the fair is over. When he returns, the horses are almost dead, and the man refuse to respond, so Kohlhass begins to fight unsuccesfuly against the injustice.
This is your basic revenge story with a bunch of horses and violence. Also, David Warner wears some ridiculous leather pants and gets Anna Karina to walk on his back. Continue reading
Baal explores the cult of the genius, an anti-heroic figure who chooses to be a social outcast and live on the fringe of bourgeois morality.
Screening as part of the Masters & Restorations program at this year’s MIFF is Baal, writer/director Volker Schlöndorff’s television adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s play of the same name which features a rare leading performance by Schlöndorff’s contemporary in the German New Wave and master filmmaker Reiner Werner Fassbinder outside of his own films. After a single screening in 1970 it was removed from public release by Brecht’s widow, but 44 years later is making the rounds at film festivals thanks his granddaughter who has approved its release. And thankfully it was worth the wait, offering a rare treat for foreign film fans. Continue reading
A man who has spent his life running away from his past. He is forced to finally deal things that he has left unresolved. When fate puts him on a collision course with the life that he reluctantly walked away from.
Voyager was directed by Volker Schlondorff, who’s other notable films include The Tin Drum and Death of a salesman. The screenplay for Voyager was written by Rudy Wurlitzer (Two-Lane Blacktop, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid). The screenplay was adapted from Swiss author Max Frisch’s novel ‘Homo Faber’. Continue reading
As the Allies march toward Paris in the summer of 1944, Hitler gives orders that the French capital should not fall into enemy hands, or if it does, then ‘only as a field of rubble’. The person assigned to carry out this barbaric act is Wehrmacht commander of Greater Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz, who already has mines planted on the Eiffel Tower, in the Louvre and Notre Dame and on the bridges over the Seine. Nothing should be left as a reminder of the city’s former glory. However, at dawn on 25 August, Swedish Consul General Raoul Nordling steals into German headquarters through a secret underground tunnel and there starts a tension-filled game of cat and mouse as Nordling tries to persuade Choltitz to abandon his plan. Continue reading
Coup de Grâce (German: Der Fangschuß, French: Le Coup de grâce) is a 1976 West German film directed by Volker Schlöndorff. It was adapted from the novel by the same name by the French author Marguerite Yourcenar. The title comes from the French expression, meaning “finishing blow”.
Synopsis: A countess’ unrequited love for an army officer leads to disaster. Latvia, 1919: the end of the Russian Civil War. An aristocratic young woman (brilliantly played by Margarethe von Trotta) becomes involved with a sexually repressed Prussian soldier. When she is rejected by her love, the young woman is sent into a downward spiral of psychosexual depression, promiscuity, and revolutionary collaboration. A startling tale of heartbreak and violence set against the backdrop of bloody revolution, Volker Schlöndorff’s Coup de grâce is a powerful film that explores the interrelation of private passion and political commitment.
At an Austrian boys’ boarding school in the early 1900s, shy, intelligent Törless observes the sadistic behavior of his fellow students, doing nothing to help a victimized classmate—until the torture goes too far. Adapted from Robert Musil’s acclaimed novel, Young Törless launched the New German Cinema movement and garnered the 1966 Cannes Film Festival International Critics’ Prize for first-time director Volker Schlöndorff.
Considered a classic film as it was the first film to put the then New German Film firmly on the (international) map. Also a classic because it was Schlöndorf’s first feature and it is still thought highly of. To be sure, this is a beautiful film to watch with its superb black-and-white cinematography; Schlondörf’s direction makes it into a well paced and staged, stylish film. But I never liked the film; recent re-viewing confirmed my feelings. Continue reading