The Legend of Rita and
“The Perfect Soldier”
Schlöndorff's next film, The Legend of Rita (Die Stille nach dem Schuss, 2000), took an approach almost totally antithetical to that in his preceding feature, Palmetto. The Legend of Rita was a low-budget film, made without stars, in a deliberately drab, realistic manner. It also marked a return by Schlöndorff to German-language production and a specifically German subject. In Rita, Schlöndorff comes back to his familiar subject of terrorism and tells the story of Rita Vogt, a fictionalized character modeled on members of the anarchist Red Army Faction of the 1970s. Although the beginning of the movie portrays Rita in her lawless activities of robbing a bank, springing her terrorist boyfriend from jail, and shooting a French police officer, most of the story has to do with her seeking asylum in the former German Democratic Republic and the bleakness and frustration of daily life there. Critics heralded The Legend of Rita as a marked “return to form” (Elley 42; Hoberman 117; Scott E5).
Our discussion of The Legend of Rita examines how it intertwines concerns with women's issues with specifically German political questions. Rita herself becomes a metaphoric figure for the May 1968 generation coming to terms with the legacy of a previously divided Germany. Although narratively coherent, the movie's formal structure involves an assembling of small details and comparisons that accumulatively embody the contradictions within a reunited Germany.
Schlöndorff had already shown an interest in a specifically German problem of unification in a short film he made for a collection entitled Spotlights on a Massacre. A brief digression to examine this four-minute work is appropriate here. This 1997 project was organized by Handicap International, a nonprofit