Schlöndorff's next film, Georgina's Reasons (Georginas Gründe, 1974) would appear to be a rather routine television assignment. It is on the surface a conventional, rather straightforward adaptation of a story by Henry James made as part of a series of five James adaptations coproduced for French and German television, with the other episodes directed by Claude Chabrol, Paul Seban, and Tony Scott (Appel). Schlöndorff worked from a script by Peter Adler, but on close inspection one sees that Georgina's Reasons picks up two major motifs that run through Schlöndorff's other work: the impossibility of love in a society that offers too many constraints and the problem of being a free-minded woman in that same repressive society. In adapting this Henry James story to television, Schlöndorff has deliberately turned a detached, thirdperson narrative into a subjective, first-person drama. He has, either by instinct or design, created a work in which the patterns of his mise-en-scène duplicate for the television viewer the patterns of looking and desire that operate within his own fictional narrative. In portraying a man's desire to possess an unresponsive woman, Schlöndorff employs mechanisms of voyeurism, of a male gaze directed at an idealized woman, to create a visual analogue to the character's internal state. In giving a story of female resistance an uncomprehending male point of view, he strengthens the woman's mystery and power. At the same time, this treatment may become problematic from a feminist viewpoint, in its adoption of strategies similar to those of patriarchal traditional cinema.
Georgina's Reasons is the story of a young woman from a good New York family who marries a young naval officer, Raymond Benyon (Joachim Bissmeyer), against the will of her parents. Georgina Gressie (Edith Clever) keeps the marriage a secret and makes her husband swear not to reveal the marriage until she permits. She has a child, which she goes to Italy to deliver, still keeping the marriage from her family. After virtually abandoning her baby, she marries again but still refuses to free her first husband to remarry legally.