Volker Schlondorff's Cinema: Adaptation, Politics, and the "Movie-Appropriate"

By Hans-Bernhard Moeller; George Lellis | Go to book overview

12
The Lost Honor of
Katharina Blum

In both Schlöndorff's development and that of the New German Cinema, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum, 1975) marks an important stage. The mid-1970s saw the West German new wave achieve firm international status, reaching a high point at the New York Film Festival of 1975 where Werner Herzog's Kaspar Hauser, along with Schlöndorff and von Trotta's Katharina Blum and Fassbinder's Fox and His Friends (Faustrecht der Freiheit), dramatically conquered new cinéaste audiences. This foreign prestige provided encouragement for a New German Cinema that had as yet engendered little interest in its country of origin. Indeed, in West Germany, the New German Cinema was barely surviving in an art film ghetto. It was to the credit of Schlöndorff and von Trotta's Katharina Blum, as well as to Lina Braake, Bernhard Sinkel and Alf Brustellin's sociopolitical low-budget comedy of the same year, 1975, that the walls between the wider German audience and the New German Cinema were cracked by unexpected popular successes.

The movie hooked audiences with its story of a somewhat naive, idealistic woman, Katharina Blum (Angela Winkler), who becomes brutalized by the law and the press immediately after she falls in love. At a relative's Mardi Gras party Katharina becomes infatuated with a stranger, Ludwig Götten (Jürgen Prochnow), who she does not realize is an army deserter. Götten and Katharina have a one-night stand, which the entire West German justice-police-and-press apparatus reads as terrorist contact between a wanted anarchist and the female who has sheltered him. The authorities who have stalked Götten are all the more convinced of Katharina's guilt as they watch him escaping from her apartment. In league with the police, the yellow press totally vilifies Katharina until her reputation is shattered. It is at this point that she shoots the press

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