In writing this book, we intended to be neither uncritical champions of Volker Schlöndorff nor completely detached reporters. Rather, the book's goal has been to assess a film career whose significance has come largely from works categorized either as qualified successes or interesting failures. Schlöndorff is important not because he has directed an astonishing string of indisputable masterpieces but because he has pursued strategies of film production that defy easy categorization. Any conclusions drawn about this body of work must consider Schlöndorff's penchant for jumping into waters whose currents pull in two directions. To sum up this study's concerns, let us propose five axioms for the appreciation of Schlöndorff's movies.
1. Schlöndorff's films are not for those who would create a false dichotomy between film and literature. Critics who decry the disfiguring of literature by cinematic adaptation usually believe that something has been lost of the complexity, the vividness, or the resonance of the original. We have instead seen how Schlöndorff's works, when successful, have a cinema-specific complexity, vividness, and resonance. This applies to both successful adaptations and works written directly for the screen.
Too often, those who complain about the oversimplifications of popular movies locate their lack of complexity in the medium itself, as though literary expression by definition is more complicated than cinematic expression. These critics automatically oppose literature to film and refuse to value the cinematic pleasures of direct sensory involvement. Schlöndorff's films make the compelling argument that screen adaptations need not be simple-minded nor mere illustrations of an author's story. Rather, they may combine the immediacy of a visual medium with at least some of the reflectiveness of the written word.
In response to cinema purists who argue that the director's repeated reliance on literary sources merely indicates a lack of a fully developed cinematic imagination, we counter that Schlöndorff in no way proposes his style of literary adaptation as the only mode of filmmaking. Indeed, in an interview from the