A Filmmaker for
the European Community
Schlöndorff's next period, which we call his “Post-Wall” period, is not marked by a completely clear transition but essentially comprises the director's work from 1990 until the present. One might see the period beginning with the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. With the subsequent reunification of Germany, Schlöndorff reorients his attention toward creating a European cinema, first with the production of Voyager and later with his taking over the Babelsberg film studios in Berlin. The Ogre, released in October 1996, is also decisively European in its orientation. This is also a period during which Schlöndorff completed a short television concert documentary, The Michael Nyman Song Book (1992). In a six-part television documentary about Hollywood filmmaker Billy Wilder and in Palmetto (1998), Schlöndorff acknowledges the strong ties Wilder had to Central European traditions and the inverse debt that the younger filmmaker owes to Wilder. He returns to specifically German subject matter in a short film about personnel land mines along the Wall and in The Legend of Rita (2000).
Although Voyager was released in Germany in late 1991, this film, an adaptation of Max Frisch's novel Homo Faber, was one that Schlöndorff had thought about for a long time and had planned to begin even prior to The Handmaid's Tale. Schlöndorff has described what happened in an interview given just before starting Voyager: “I thought it had been waiting 30 years so it could wait a little longer, while The Handmaid's Tale had to be done right away. So I had it postponed. I'm glad I did. I have at last one truly American film behind me, and I can again do this truly European piece” (Van Gelder).
Although it was shot in English with an American star, Sam Shepard, Voyager nonetheless marks a turn away from the American subjects of his preceding three films. Schlöndorff in the same interview described the project as a “strictly European production” and “a trans-Atlantic enterprise. ” And at the time of its