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  • "The Lost Honor of..." not only tells an interesting story with powerful writing, acting and cinematography, but is also a must see for those disturbed by the power

    authoritarian governments (communist, fascist, and everything in between) possess to exploit individual human rights. I wish we could view this film as a well made relic of the past, but unfortunately its subject matter is as relevent today as it was in 1970's West Germany. As in Katarina's world, terrorism is again the favored epithet of the day as the U.S.'s social and political climate moves away from a conversation between differing individual view points and towards an 'on message' insistence on absolute conformity.

    Katarina is a young maid with little money, who sleeps with a man she barely knows, a man who is under surveillance as a suspected terrorist. Because she was seen with the supposed terrorist, her life is torn apart by police interrogators and a press that only reports "facts" which support its particular ideology, even if the details must be fabricated. Although those who know Katarina tell the press and police of a bright, sweet, and quiet girl, her reputation is run through the gutter by the men who translate her private life to the public world. Eventually, Katarina takes on the attributes of a stereotypical terrorist because the state has given her no choice but to become radicalized. Simply because Katarina will not give up her dignity and privacy, she becomes an enemy of the state.

    For Katarina, her private life becomes glaringly public, and the public judges her based on both the fabricated evidence presented by her accusers (both press and government) as well as their own assumptions about how a woman should behave. In the society that surrounds Katarina, the state functions through conformity, and those who do not conform instantly become the enemy. As a woman, Katarina bears the brunt of this brutality, as her sexuality becomes both exploited and demonized. The young maid becomes a media fixation, a beautiful sexual terrorist.

    Although much of this might sound familiar, the film relates these political and social paradoxes on an individual, personal level. As in Katarina's case, sensational news stories rarely investigate the cogs which make them front page headlines-they only reinforce easy reactions of judgemental outrage. "The Lost Honor of ..." shines a bright light on the lives that are trampled beneath the broad strokes of an unyielding and inhuman militarized state and the press and public which supports it.
  • This film is based on the novel of the same name by the German author Heinrich Böll. The book is purported to be written by Böll as a result of an ongoing feud in the German media between Böll and the publisher of the German daily tabloid the Bild Zeitung, a publication known for its lurid and sensational reporting of the news. In his story, Böll attempts to show how damaging irresponsible journalism can be to the lives and reputations of innocent persons caught up in the tide of current events.

    The story begins with Katherina Blum attending a party where she meets and is strongly attracted to a young man. She invites him to her apartment and they spend the night making love. The next morning, the young man has gone and the police are storming her door seeking to arrest the overnight guest as a terrorist. Instead, Katherina is arrested and taken to the police station for interrogation as his accomplice. The young terrorist has been killed and Katherina is unable to prove that she had no knowledge of his activities. A tabloid reporter becomes obsessed by the case hounds Katherina, mercilessly destroying her reputation and any semblance of a normal life. The emotional tension continues to build, finally reaching a violent climax.

    This is a very powerful and well made film. Böll's message regarding sensational and irresponsible journalism is very clear. After suffering along with the innocent Katharina through the insult, pain and dishonor of her ordeal, I came away from the film with an altered point of view toward tabloid journalism and commercial news reporting in general. In a world where reporters are being found guilty of manufacturing news stories, media agencies are providing dramatic reenactments of sensational news events, and names like O.J. Simpson and Monica Lewinsky are used as teasers to improve the ratings of news programs, this film is a must see.
  • This is one of a handful of German productions of the 1970s critically acclaimed by world cinema. "Die verlorene Ehre der Katerina Blum" tells of the seemingly innocent love affair of a young woman with a man who turns out to be a fugitive bank robber. Twisting and turning the story to make it more "readable" a tabloid reporter shamelessly destroys the woman's reputation, even leading to her arrest as an "accomplice" to the crimes committed by her "boyfriend".

    The film shows in detail how the situation impacts many people, including Katerina's employers, neighbors, family memebers. All speak highly of her, yet the newspapers always manage to print distorted facts, embellishments and outright lies. The ending, though unexpected and shocking, will satisfy the viewer, who by now completely empathises with the title character who had been "railroaded" by the press for no other purpose than to sell more papers. A five star classic.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Angela Winkler totally dominates this movie, and it could scarcely function without her acting skills. She is at once reserved and sensuous, in a way that suggests a deeply spiritual person. It comes as no surprise that her character was educated in a convent and is jokingly called "the nun" by her friends. Quite possibly she might have entered holy orders, and she still keeps up contact with the "Cloister" she remembers so fondly.

    Anyhow, Katharina is now a housemaid working for a kind lawyer and his wife, after a failed marriage to a dork. Somehow, though, she manages to have a fancy apartment and a Porsche, something that will cause her much grief later on.

    She gets invited to a party in progress by a bunch of her friends; she is reluctant to go, but finally accepts. This is during Carnival, similar to Halloween, so most people are dressed in outrageous costumes and partying wildly. The demure Katharina seems out of place here, until she meets a kind young man (not in costume) who treats her with tenderness and respect quite different from the boozers. It's love at first sight, Katharina is overwhelmed for the first time ever - love at first sight. They go off and spend the night in her apartment.

    SPOILERS The next morning all hell breaks loose, as a SWAT team bursts into her apartment looking for the guy, who by then is gone. We have known there's something odd about him, as we've seen him, at the beginning of the film, framed in the cross-hairs of a movie-camera (a brilliant touch reminiscent of Peeping Tom) and seen him throw off a pursuer in an exciting car chase. It turns out the police think he is a dangerous international terrorist; worse still, they think the pure and delicate Katharina is his long-standing accomplice in terror.

    She is now plunged into utter hell, not so much from the police interrogation (which is bad enough), but from the attentions of the gutter-press, which uses distortions and outright lies to destroy her reputation in the eyes of the gullible populace, with much co-operation from the police. (As she's being escorted to the police station, the cops grab her hair in order to make her face twist in pain, thus the press-photos get to show her as "vicious". END SPOILERS

    I am struck by how much this film resembles Town Without Pity (1961), which was also set in Germany, with Christine Kaufmann playing a role similar to Katharina Blum; it must surely have been a major influence on Schlondorff. Kafka's The Trial also comes to mind. Another influence must have been the paintings of James Ensor, eg "The Entry of Christ into Brussels", with its revellers in grotesque and frightening masks.

    Carnival is a major participant in the story, as the drunken revellers in strange costumes become something frightening when they turn into an accusatory mob, as they do upon seeing the now-dishonoured Katharina.

    Although the story chronicles the systematic destruction of a personality, there are some surprise twists (which I won't reveal). It should be said that Katharina imperceptibly metamorphoses from a terrified victim into somebody with a quiet determination to do what must be done. Angela Winkler is absolutely brilliant in the way she portrays this subtle change in her character, underplaying the drama and conveying her changing feelings with the minutest of facial expressions, which speak louder than sweeping gestures.

    I'll leave others to discuss the political implications of the movie, but you have to see it for one of the great acting performances of the century.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Schlöndorff's first film (that I know of) is 1966 adaptation of the short DIE VERWIRRUNGEN DES JUNGEN TÖRLESS, a short novel by the great and under-appreciated Viennese writer Robert Musil (author of THE MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES). My point is that it is clear that Schlöndorff is a very enlightened director, aware of the great modern literary tradition that came before him. We may be reminded of Joseph K. in Kafka's THE TRIAL, who wakes up "one fine morning" with the police in his room and is under arrest "without having done anything wrong." We also should find similarities between the methods the police in this film use to prosecute Katharina Blum and the way the prosecutors slander Camus' hero Meursault in THE STRANGER. This film is highly recommended for those interested in the legacy of German history. There are subtle references to the Nazi period in this film that students in German Studies should pick up on. Overall, this film is very respectful of the intellectual tradition that precedes it, but it gets a 9 for not "infecting" the viewer (in the Tolstoyan sense).
  • Excellent film, well-worth searching out. According to the director's feature on the DVD,Boll wrote the novel after being smeared by a journalist who claimed Boll was a spiritual father to the terrorists, when in fact Boll was only trying to establish a dialogue with them.

    Excellennt acting throughout, with Jurgen Prochnow (Das Boot, English Patient) as the terrorist Ludgwig. And a true sign of a great film, it doesn't feel dated at all (other than the clothing- dig those crazy bell-bottoms!).

    I think some commentators are over-stating the obvious as far as civil liberties and left-wing/right-wing agendas. Governments always over-react that way. Our own Prime Minister Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act in the 1970s when the FLQ in Quebec kidnapped and killed a British diplomat.

    And Katherina herself is not totally without guilt, as she does aid and abet Ludwig. Also there is a scene with her in detention where she pulls a hankerchef out of her purse and what look like raw diamonds fall out onto her lap.

    I think the worst slime in the film is the print journalist, and the way the police collaborate with him, allowing him to get the "inside" first.

    The impressive funeral, complete with boy's choir, sponsored by the journal owner-manager, and his "spin" on freedom of the press show the propaganda war at work. Those in attendance include her "mystery lover", whose main concern is obviously protecting his reputation, understandably perhaps after seeing up close how the press destroyed Katherina's life.

    A great score by the German modernist composer Hans Werner Henze adds to the surreal Carnival atmosphere and environment.
  • The work of V. Schlöndorff and M. von Trotta deserves high praises, especially because of their ability to overcome the certain difficulties confronted whilst adapting a work of literature into a cinematic piece, or: from one branch of art (in)to another. To give a small example, Heinrich Böll's book adopts a first-person-plural-view/narration whereas the film refrains from this approach; the essence of a documentary such an approach provides, however, can be grasped instantaneously in the film, too.

    Being successful on most aspects, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum suffers from its shortness. 106 mins. have been cleverly used by the directors, mostly by delivering the spectators what ought to be delivered essentially, but they fail in providing the links and some necessary depths to the characters and/or relations. An additional 15 minutes could have helped the directors to grave both their and the film's name deeper and in larger fonts.

    I, for one, found the most fascinating part of the film to be shot in 1975: a year in which Ulrike M. Meinhof, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Jan-Carl Raspe still lives; Holger Meins recently died of hunger(!); the West Germany is yet to experience what they term as The German Autumn by the 2nd generation RAF; the 1st gen. RAF members (leading members above) have not been tried yet by the time the book was published (maybe even by the time the film screened); the West Germany Police getting increasingly armed and offensive, and so on. Among all these, we witness the "system" founding and feeding itself -- as a matter of fact, nothing but its own self. The police, the officials, still prevalent pro-Nazism, and still-in-power former Nazis, the media, the social status, abuse, and oppression of the women... With the system ruling, firmly administering, and when necessary, fabricating all these tools, factors, manipulating the people, the viewer gains an insight into the closed loop that the person is trapped in. Seemingly, there is not a(n easy) way out; the ones leading to a hazy light turn out to be dead-ends. And here, the viewer begins to understand what the title really means, and how subtly it is the (condensed) narrative (of) itself.

    These elements, pertaining to a "tightly-screwed" state system, all exist in the film but require a keen eye to catch them, let alone pondering on, given the length of the film. Despite its shortness, I believe that the adequate use of dialogues (even though sometimes they sound like irrelevant) and inconstant voices of characters, minute attention to decorations every here and there, Angela Winkler close-ups and her mimics, ... will convince the spectators that the directors pulled a good job, having come up with a worthy work.
  • It's funny, but the recent Criterion DVD release of "The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum" gives it a whole new perspective. Next to "The Legend of Rita", "Lost Honor" is almost like "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead". But in this case, it's dead serious.

    Katharina Blum is a normal German woman who has a one-night state with a man she meets at a party. Later, she finds out that he is an anarchist and part of a Baader-Meinhoff-type gang; the group Rita from "Legend of Rita" is supposed to be a member of.

    Responding to the activities of German urban guerrillas, there is a national dragnet to hunt them down. Blum is arrested and gets caught up in the hunt, revealing a myopic government at it's most abusive. Equally revealing is the insidious nature of the media and it's role in repression. You can't help but get a chill watching it not because you can't believe it ever happened. But because you can't believe it happens all the time. Life in America is a lot like Katharina Blum's for many people.

    Schlöndorff is an intellectual. Both of these films are great reflections of that. They're smart, challenging while being well paced and lithe. "Lost Honor" marked the directorial debut of Margarethe Von Trotta (in some ways a protégé of Schlöndorff's not to mention lover) who would go on to great things including "Rosa Luxembourg".
  • This film is as prescient about the abuses of the so-called liberal media, as another film made the same year: NETWORK. Though the political agendas of the two films run somewhat different tracks, they arrive at the same station. One's private life, passions and convictions are reduced to fodder for the lowest common denominator of the semi-literate whenever it suits the status quo's purpose.

    If you're about to see "The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum" for the first time, attempt to avoid thinking of it as an old film; As with Network, the passing decades have proved it more a documentary.
  • Apart from its general and still (i.e. now more than ever) valid attacks on the scrupelous tactics of tabloid journalism, this movie is also very valuable as a time piece about German society in the 1970's, when the country was shaken by fear of terrorist assassinations and everything considered anti-Democratic (meaning left-wing). In this way, the film not only takes into question the missing morality of tabloid journalists, but also the loss of human rights in a society bothered with questions of homeland security (parallels to the current situation in the U.S. are obvious). Katharina Blum is not only destroyed by the merciless press abusing her for sensationalist journalism, but also by a police and judicial system that doesn't value an individual's right of privacy anymore, and even less the principle of innocent until proven otherwise.

    A film of exceptional quality (even though the acting isn't convincing at some times), "Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum" is strongly recommended to every thinking movie fan with an interest in the abuse of power in our not-so-democratic society.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The film starts out on a ferry carrying a man who's being filmed by another. Katharina meets a man at a Carnival party. The two hit it off and go back to her place. The next morning, the police break down her door. Apparently the man was some kind of criminal. This man gave the police the slip somehow and the police are now accusing of abetting him. It becomes a media frenzy and the media comes down especially hard on her. It's a real circus and Katharina's life is turned upside down as well as that of her dying mother. There's one reporter who was particularly oppressive and, in the final scene, is shot by Katharina.

    A lot of the specifics aren't particularly clear, but that seems on purpose. It's not clear what sort of criminal Ludwig Götten (Jürgen Prochnow) is except for a widely sought one. It's also not clear if Katharina was lying the entire time and actually helped Ludwig or not. In the end she's very quick to get back with him and call him on the telephone. This seems very contrary to someone ignorant of the man's criminal past.

    I really like how the police and media are portrayed. I hear a lot of talk about how police are necessary, but they are those who walk around with a gun putting out harsh questions and being general jerks. This film does a good job showing of what they do - how many times the innocent are convicted etc.

    It's also great that the media is shown how they are. The obvious bias shown by media in their decision to cover certain events over another, and the intrusive and aggressive nature of the tabloids is shown well. Undoubtedly, this isn't a true story, but it is based on the novel by Heinrich Böll who had experience with such things himself.

    It's easy to forget sometimes that film is a part of life and it's important to show the modern world as it is while still telling a story - which this does. This is a high recommend to any fan of German cinema.
  • A mild-mannered divorced woman Katharina Blum (Angela Winkler) meets a nice guy called Ludwig (Jürgen Prochnow) at a party and spends a night with him. The next morning, she is shocked to wake up to see a special police unit storming into her apartment, seeking to arrest Ludwig to no avail as he has already left. It turns out Ludwig is a highly wanted criminal involved in anarchist activity and Katharina is arrested as well as a potential associate. Her name and pictures are published in trashy tabloids and particularly an almost caricature-like journalist called Tötges (Dieter Laser) is completely unashamed of dragging her whole life through dirt by selling fabricated stories to his magazine.

    The film examines the effects of the witch-hunt caused by the press and was inspired by writer Heinrich Böll's own experiences. The atmosphere of anxiety is created subtly with some avant-garde music and bleak photography. Some of the scenes during Katharina's imprisonment have Kafkaesque loneliness written all over them in an effective, distressing manner. Angela Winkler shows all these feelings naturally without much dialogue.

    Even though the exploration of Katharina's emotions during the media spectacle is interesting, the slow-paced film feels a little too long at times and could have benefited from being trimmed down a bit in the middle. On the other hand, in the beginning I would have liked to see more of Katharina and Ludwig's short relationship as it could have explained her fondness for him better. Now it doesn't seem all clear why she wants to protect him despite all the troubles it causes her. Also, the film is understandably completely on Katharina's side but the ending comes across as a little heavy-handed, partly due to the overwrought performance of the priest in the epilogue.

    In spite of minor complaints, I think Katharina Blum is a good and still highly relevant film and I recommend it to anyone interested in slow-paced character studies and bleak dramas. Those interested in the power of the Press and the hypocrisy of the public should also check it out.
  • Grace Kelly once said: "There is freedom of the press, but not much freedom from it." "The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum" shows that to be all too true. Katharina Blum (Angela Winkler) is a young woman in West Germany who has a brief fling with a man who turns out to be a left-wing terrorist. The press, ever eager to find stories to sell, sensationalizes the whole thing to make Katharina look like a terrorist, destroying her reputation in the process.

    The movie also poses the question of quantity vs. quality. You may or may not have heard of Germany's economic miracle. Kaputt after WWII, Germany quickly rebuilt and went on to become Europe's largest economy. But what does it really mean? Katharina's apartment building looks pretty fancy on the outside, but her apartment looks kind of dilapidated; maybe the "economic miracle" has been a facade all along. Either way, this is a movie that everyone should see.
  • In the early 1970s, West Germany was having quite a problem with what was known as the Baader-Meinhof terrorist gang. Author Heinrich Böll wrote an article criticizing what he saw as the German tabloid Bild-Zeitung's fear-mongering tactics in their reporting of the activities of the Baader-Meinhof gang. Subsequently, Böll was called a terrorist sympathizer, and the police began checking him out as if he were a criminal. This provoked Böll into writing a novel, also called The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, which was to serve as a parable for the consequences of "yellow journalism" and fascist-leaning police actions. The subtitle of the book was the over-ambitious "How violence can arise and what it can lead to".

    Filmmakers Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta knew and empathized with Böll so they began to put the film into production immediately. I haven't read the novel, so I can't compare the two, but unfortunately the film, at least based on the English language translation, comes nowhere near its goals in terms of political or social commentary.

    Here's how the story begins per what we actually see on the screen: a man--he turns out to be Ludwig Götten (Jürgen Prochnow)--who is behaving mysteriously/covertly finds his way to a party. At the party, he hooks up with a swinging trio consisting of an apparent Arab and two women. They then head to another party, where Götten runs into Katharina Blum (Angela Winkler). They stare at each other oddly and dance slowly. The Arab heads off to the bathroom, reports to whoever is listening on the other side of his wire that Götten and Blum are together, and we see Götten and Blum subjected to surveillance as they leave together to go to her apartment. In the morning (I'm not sure why they'd wait until morning), police, including armed men in something like riot gear, storm into Blum's apartment, planning on absconding Götten. But Götten is gone. So they take Blum in for questioning. It seems that Götten is a suspected terrorist and they want to know what Blum's relationship is to him. Blum ends up briefly imprisoned.

    At the same time, a local tabloid paper, simply called "The Paper" in the English-language subtitles, at least, begins printing trumped up stories about Blum, occasionally even completely fabricating quotes from interviewees. As in the novel, the gist of the film is supposed to be that the treatment from the police and the newspaper are "ruining Blum's life".

    It's certainly true that the police and the journalists shown in the film get a bit out of line. However, their transgressions are relatively minor, especially compared to other filmic depictions of such things. Blum is never strong-armed by the police, for example. Compared to the real world, there are no molestations with broomstick handles here. The journalists do not do anything unusual for tabloid journalists. I can't remember when it started publishing, but The Weekly World News sure fabricates stories a lot stronger than "The Paper" in Katharina Blum does, and it's not as if The National Enquirer, say, hasn't been successfully sued for slander/libel. On the other hand, The National Enquirer hasn't exactly ruined lives, either. That would be quite an exaggeration.

    It's not clear why Blum answers the police's line of questioning without objecting more vehemently or alternately refraining from talking and incriminating herself. I'm not sure what Germany's laws are, or were, on that. No one tells us that Blum has to respond to the police in the way that she does, and she certainly doesn't try very hard to do otherwise.

    If we look at things from the police's perspective for a moment, Götten is supposedly a terrorist. While we're not shown anything confirming this, we're not shown anything denying it, either. We don't know what kind of evidence the police have on Götten. And here is a woman who is apparently helping him out. So, obviously, they're going to question her, and police will ask you all kinds of questions that you don't have to answer. As shown in the film, it is suggested that Blum is actually lying about the extent of her interactions with Götten. If she just met him, many plot points make little sense. Further, Schlöndorff and von Trotta suggest in subtle ways that Blum's circle of acquaintances might not just be ideological leftists. Given all of this, the police aren't really shown doing anything out of line except asking questions that Blum wouldn't have had to answer.

    The Paper gets more out of line, but we're actually only shown a couple incidents where they change words in someone's statement. The idea is that Blum is being tried and convicted in the tabloid. Yet, "tried and convicted in the press" is hyperbole, certainly. Blum remained free. She wasn't proved guilty of anything. The emotional turmoil she experiences (which leads to a much improved climax) seems more a result of her own odd disposition (and the character is quite odd and somewhat volatile in the film) than blamable on stories in the newspaper. The only person who ruins Blum's life is Blum.

    If you haven't seen the film yet, it might seem odd that I'm hanging on narrow points so much. You're probably saying, "But what about the plot? Isn't this a good, suspenseful film?" The bulk of the film consists of the police questioning Blum and reporters trying to interview her family, friends and associates (although that takes up a lot less time than the police questioning Blum). This is nothing if not a "talking head" film. It succeeds or not largely based on that talking. There are stretches where the talking is engaging, even if it's not making the point that Schlöndorff and von Trotta want to make. It's a good idea, and could have worked with a better script. But there's not much else to praise, including the technical elements, which are just average.
  • I read before the novel I saw the film (in my german class) and I have to say this adaption is way better than the book. The book by Heinrich Böll is not easy to read, it's actually very boring and sometimes you just want to throw it at the wall because Böll often just philosophies about some unimportant things. The film concentrates on the "real" story of Katharina Blum and creates an intense portrait of a young woman who becomes a victim of the tabloid press. It's really good and Angela Winkler gives us a superb performance. 7/10.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The story takes place in West Germany in the 1970s, a time of great public fear caused by the Red Army Faction's terror campaign of bombing and murder. Katharina Blum is seen going home one night with a suspected terrorist after a party, and she is subsequently arrested and interrogated. The police give her some fairly aggressive treatment and the tabloid newspapers smear her name. As you would expect in a left-wing political film, Ms Blum plays the innocent martyr in all of this, an apparently wrongfully accused woman whose rights are abused by both police investigators and the media. The cops and reporters are made to be caricatures of meanness and evil. The film-makers try every manipulative trick in the book to make us sympathize with her, and think ill of her accusers. When she refuses to cooperate in their investigation, she is portrayed as legitimately defending her dignity.

    The problem with all of this of course is that to many politically moderate viewers, the woman thoroughly deserved everything that she got! [Some SPOILERS ahead] It is revealed at the end of the film that she did in fact aid and abet the terrorist, and in fact knew where he was hiding. She could easily have avoided all the negative newspaper coverage and police brusqueness by cooperating. Indeed she had a clear moral obligation to do so. That she felt a romantic attraction to the fugitive, is an incredibly selfish reason for her not to help the police. Only in the upside-down moral universe of the lunatic left does the anti-police and anti-media blame game in this film make any sense at all. Katharina Blum has only herself to blame for her loss of honor.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The film Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum gives me an uneasy feeling, and this alone is of course a merit. On the other hand, during the film I had high hopes about the climax, and the actual ending became a disappointment. I still think that the director and the writer have missed an opportunity. Unfortunately it may well be that the silly unraveling is actually their intention. Most part of the film seems to be a warning to the viewer, that he or she can become a victim of the public opinion and the judicial system. Since this is both true and ill understood, the film could bring some enlightenment. In the Netherlands there used to be a PR campaign proclaiming that "the police is your best friend". In fact the interest of the police and the accidental bypasser are seldom coinciding, and paragraphs about extorted false confessions are not uncommon. And although the highly subjective gathering of news by the media is well known, most people still tend to believe what is in print or on the screen. The story is located in the turbulent Germany in 1975, at a time when violent revolutions still seemed a viable alternative. The anarchist Rote Armee Fraktion scored its first terrorist successes. The Berlin journals of Springer Verlag started a right-wing campaign, which had some resemblance to the American McCarthy years. Civil rights were curtailed, and radical citizens were excluded from certain professions. In this political climate the famous left-wing politician Rudi Dutschke was shot by an idiot. The film hitches on to these living conditions, when the main character Blum experiences love at first sight for a suspected and wanted "terrorist". Actually, the story is not quite clear about his criminal past, and it may consist of conscientions objection, verbal agitation or being member of a subversive organization or so. After a one night stand with the man (a quickie) Blum is arrested on suspicion of accessory. The man himself has somehow disappeared in a miraculous way. The police officer/interrogator is an unpleasant character, but to me his behavior seems to be within the usual limits. His main fault is a collaboration with an unscrupulous newspaper journalist. They exchange information, which is indeed penal and an official abuse, but I fear also quite common. The journalist even obtrudes himself on the dying mother of Blum, and writes a distorted paragraph about it. Characteristic is the reaction of the pertinent surgeon in response to the article: "If he indeed has entered the intensive care station, the hospital will sue him. However I think it is impossible". Consequently the public opinion condemns Blum as a terrorist, and she is spit at etc. So far so good. But then the story takes a bizarre turn. We discover that Blum has actually organized the escape of the "terrorist", and his going into hiding. Apparently she is indeed an accessory and guilty. In the end, she actually murders the journalist (and it is suggested also his photographer). The tables are turned: Blum is an unscrupulous criminal and the police officer and the journalist are effective professionals, albeit human, who deserve our admiration. The film ends with the burial scene of the journalist, where in a moving speech the liberty of the press and its vital importance for the democracy are professed. We are back with the fairy tale that the police is your best friend and the media tell the truth. In a world full of power abuse this is not the most helpful message, and therefore I can not frankly recommend this film. If you are captivated by the theme of state oppression in some form, you may consider seeing Fatherland, Man of Marble, Einer trage des anderen Last, or Die Architekten. In addition my list of reviews contains lots of films about unionism.
  • I will look beyond the Left-Right and East-West angle. It is the war beyond these minor differences. And as it comes out in the end, the Villain of the state wasn't really what was depicted almost till the very end - in fact he was more in the mold of Julian Assange - and that explains why he was shadowed but not apprehended - whereas everyone he came in contact with were treated like lepers (with apologies, for using the phrase, without intending to hurt).

    But even he is the background in this movie, the carrier of the virus, the main character is the name sake Katharina Blum, the suspected infected person.

    A simple and normal girl, unfortunately pretty, and desirable, had a bad marriage, and divorced. Then she became the mistress of a millionaire, who naturally showered largess on her. In a chance encounter, she was exposed to something she had never been, "Tenderness" and after the one night stand - with the Enemy of the State (who was monitored by the state), she was promptly arrested and exposed to the "judicial" interrogation.

    Probably that by itself could have been somewhat bearable, but the other unbridled power too takes an undue interest. To emphasise, in today's society, there are only two unquestionably unbridled power - the Judiciary and the Media - none of which can be questioned (Freedom of Press), and when both work in the same motive, to destroy some one, the defense or sanity is difficult to maintain in face of that assault - and especially when one is really innocent, and hence even more powerless and vulnerable.

    It is not that the two didn't know of their victim's innocence (they even mentioned it), but the call of 'Duty' - for one to catch the Enemy and for other the TRP, are of prime importance, some one, especially not of the 'family' is completely expendable. Though she had her supporters, her employers, her relatives, friends, but the movie displayed clearly - how with these two powers bent on a full assault, the supporters too could be forced into silence (every one has some skeleton, even if small, in some ancestral cupboard). With the press in tow, doing what it does even today, probably even more today, entirely distorting, even fabricating, if they can't selectively disclose, with a single intention - to make the case juicier - which can only come through painting the victim in darker and darker shades - of course with color.

    Naturally it causes irreparable damage to the person, even if perchance the person is set free. Thankfully this movie, that's why it is masterpiece, didn't shy away from it.

    There are quite a few movies on similar subject - the destruction of individuals (but though these are individuals, but the victims could be made general, since it happens with many). Each of these, Garde A Vue, Stadt ohne Mitleid (Town without pity), Salo, Death Watch, .. there are several I have come across, and none are less than masterpiece. Probably because these ring a chord ?

    These movies may be seen to be promoting anarchism, being against state - but in fact they are not. Since these shows how uncontrolled power - destroys the very ones for whose sake the power had been granted to. It isn't only the state, where the anarchists hold power, the same thing happens, to the 'innocents'.

    The misuse of 'Freedom of Press' of of 'Judiciary' or 'State' - which is to keep it 'Free' from other 'Powers' - makes the very people victims, for the protection of whom this 'Freedom' is given.
  • This extraordinary movie about a terrorist, the Police, and an innocent woman takes place on Shrove Monday (RosenMontag) where German Catholic tradition has it that sins that day/night are automatically forgiven. Sometimes, though, letting go can have the most tragic consequences for the innocent and their basic human vulnerability.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Volker Schlöndorff is either a diabolically brilliant dissembler, or a gifted idiot savant. His public persona of hapless twittering political correctness (see the extras on this DVD) comforts the intellectual and critical elite, while his terse well-crafted movies give the lie to the bloody nonsense those elites espouse.

    The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (1975) is an excellent example of this. The official plot line of the film, mindlessly parroted here on IMDb and elsewhere, describes the young Mrs. Blum as an earnest innocent, a simple housemaid unwittingly caught up in the toils of the vicious capitalist news media and Germany's crypto-Nazi police bureaucracy. This summary neatly fits the pink-tinged world view of Criterion, creator of the DVD version. It does not fit the movie itself.

    If you actually watch the movie, rather than just read what you are supposed to think about it, you will realize about three- quarters of the way through, that although the police may be bumbling wretches, they were right all along about Mrs. Blum. She really is a cool and calculating agent of subversion, not just the passing plaything of a terrorist on the run. She is not cool enough, however. Her casual contempt for everyone around her -- for the lawyer and architect who employ and befriend her, for her shady financier lover, for her ex-husband, even for her own terrorist network -- is expressed in her sloppy tradecraft. She drops a damning clue which leads the police directly to her terrorist contact. Oh well, she shrugs, he was a loser anyway, just an army deserter. There are plenty more where he came from.

    The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum is not Volker Schlöndorff's best film -- The Legend of Rita (2000), The Ogre (1996), and Homo Faber (1991), are all better movies -- but it is not bad.

    *

    What IS bad is an insipid documentary on this Criterion DVD. It is a 1977 amateurish interview with Heinrich Böll (1917-1985), who wrote the 1974 novel which inspired Schlöndorff's movie.

    Heinrich Böll was a Wehrmacht soldier in the 1940s, turned Movement philosopher in the 1960s. In his stories and novels he shared with a younger generation, including director Schlöndorff, a profound wartime insight.

    On the battlefield, Böll had realized that the true enemy of Hitler's National Socialism had not been Stalin's International Socialism; he was old enough to remember the nineteen happy years 1922-1941 when the USSR and Germany had been allied against the West, until Hitler's jealousy had spoiled the grand Socialist coalition. No, what had ultimately defeated Heinrich Böll and his fellow German National Socialists in 1945 had been America and her twin evils, liberty and free enterprise.

    Two decades later, in the 1960s, America was on the way to defeating the International Socialists, too, starting in Viet Nam, unless the American military could somehow be stopped there. Böll was a leading orator of the West European branch of the worldwide "Youth Movement," organized from Moscow to resist the advance of America and liberty. "The Movement," as it self-consciously styled itself, did defeat America in the early 1970s - - not in Viet Nam, but in Washington -- leaving much of the world to languish under Communism for another decade and a half, and leaving tens of millions of Asian, African, and East European people to be butchered, their blood spilled on the altar of Marxism. (Leftists are strange people. Rather than bragging of their butchery, they primly deny it ever happened -- while planning the next round.)

    Heinrich Böll was a celebrated intellectual hero of The Movement, a "Freedom Fighter" who had fought against freedom all his life, fighting with pen and sword, with typewriter and assault rifle. Böll capped his career with the 1972 Nobel Prize in Literature, its gold medal outshining his by then tarnished Iron Cross. Böll died with Communist global dominion still seemingly on the rise -- expiring four years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, where his books had long been Party-subsidized bestsellers.

    Böll's no longer youthful Movement lives on today, metastasized throughout the West. Because Moscow is now in remission, for the moment, anyway, The Movement has allied itself with the Islamic Jihadists to struggle against their common enemies, America and liberty, private property and freedom, as well as against Israel and the Jews. Anti-Semitism is back in fashion among the intellectual elite. Perhaps it never left.

    So, if you buy or rent this DVD, enjoy the movie as it was actually made, not as it has been described. And unless you have either a strong stomach, or a weak mind, skip the hagiographic Heinrich Böll documentary.
  • Husband-and-wife team Schlöndorff (his sixth feature) and von Trotta (her first feature) bring Heinrich Böll's sensational novel to the big screen, THE LOST HONOR OF KATHARINA BLUM is everything one may imagine from a political reportage made in West Germany during the 70s: following the guidance of a forensic eye, a steely heroine (masked by her innocent or accomplice opaqueness and her political slant) comes under harsh interrogation by the sloppy police force, who majestically fails to seize their suspect in the first place; unscrupulous reporters harass those related or involved like a callous fly, cook up stories to manipulate the reaction from the populace, thus to ensure that more papers are sold; more private matters will surface, some big name is enmeshed, some insider deal needs to be organised, whilst, Katharine Blum (Wrinkler), our protagonist, retreats to be a cog in the machine.

    But, at the end of the day, what happens is simply a love-at-first-sight romance between two strangers, although it doesn't sound so credible in the soil of German, but there is absolutely no political agenda involved, the only bug is, the target Ludwig (Prochnow) is a wanted anarchist, and in this case, the subsequent occurrence will destroy Katharina's tranquil life, eventually turns her into an avenging angel with blood in her hands, but at that point, we will emotionally stand by her as her vindictive resolution engages as the only satisfactory compensation (not just for her, but for viewers too) against a grim, unfair and repressive society where morality and humanity have lost their grounds to political alienation and media obsession.

    Both law enforcement and paper media, and their symbiosis are under scrutiny, although the ignoble journalist Werner Tötges (Laser) takes the brunt of reproach here, but the scene where he visits Katharina's dying mother in the hospital inconveniently imposes as a stretch of its own manipulative story-telling from the director-duo (since he has no qualms about publishing a truth- twisted report, there is really no need for him to torture a dying woman like that, the purpose of that scene is too obvious); Inspector Beizmenne (Adorf) and DA (Becker) aren't exactly chummy characters to hang out with, they represent a different sort of violence and cruelty, which viciously menaces to strip Katharina of her privacy using their black-face/white-face strategy, whenever they find something needs an explanation, whether or not it is relevant to Ludwig, whom she knows only for one night. A third party to be condemned (if only in a minor gesture) is Katharina's employer, the middle-class lawyer Hubert (Bennent), Katharina works for him as a housekeeper, and one of his client, the "mysterious gentleman" Alois (Vosgerau), whom Katharina has been seeing over several years but refuses to reveal to the police under any kind of questioning. They have self-serving reasons to play safe in the game which are understandable, it is their brazen desperation and self-obsessed consideration that is too sickening to stomach.

    The film refrains from being a more captivating thriller with its sparing usage of action pieces, the big arrest in the end hasn't been portrayed directly, so as to leave all the leverage to Katharina's final revenge scene, which doesn't disappoint, and Angela Winkler proves that she is such a powerhouse of stamina despite of her vulnerable first impression, gradually she grows on you with her slow disintegration during all the grilling and slander from media and public, but she never loses her core of strength, an excellent exemplar of a slow-burner in the German acting school.

    The epilogue scenes are another slap-in-the-face of the hypocrisy of the modern journalism, as clear as day, Tötges is killed not because he is a journalist, but an unethical bastard. Unnervingly, one has no trouble tracing the film's continuing relevance in today's world, which in fact, gives its sustaining life force of this 40-year-old curio.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum" or "The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum" is a West German movie from 1975, so this one already had its 40th anniversary last year. the title certainly sounds like a Rainer Werner Fassbinder movie and the time when this came out also fits, but actually this is a film directed by Volker Schlöndorff with his wife Margarethe von Trotta, her first directorial effort, and the duo also adapted Heinrich Böll's novel together for the screen here. The lead actress is played by Angela Winkler around the age of 30. It was not her first successful performance, but maybe her first career-defining. She won a German Film Award for her turn here. The supporting cast consists of a bunch of male actors who were all among Germany's finest around that time and are still very well-known today, such as Mario Adorf, Jürgen Prochnow, Dieter Laser and Heinz Bennent.

    This 105-minute movie is about a woman who really does nothing wrong, yet has to face severe consequences for her actions, which ultimately drive her to becoming a criminal herself. Winkler's character has a one-night stand with a terrorist. The next morning he is gone and police forces rush into her apartment. She gets taken to jail like a criminal and from that moment on not only struggles with police authorities, but also with the press, especially one particularly persistent journalist (Laser), who is not even scared of harassing the main character's very sick mother. The ending is particularly telling with the eulogy on freedom of press and the bad guy becoming a martyr, although it becomes obvious that this film is actually making a statement for the opposite site, namely for individual freedom and the right of not being harassed by press when you just want your calm.

    I quite enjoyed the watch here. The film gets a bit weaker after the first hour when it moves a bit away from Winkler's, Laser's and Adorf's characters, certainly the most interesting, but the last 15 minutes make up for it again. I am generally not too big on Schlöndorff's or von Trotta's works such as "Young Törless" or "Hannah Arendt" and I also find "The Tin Drum" vastly overrated, but I think the spouses reached a convincing result with their collaboration here. Maybe they should have just made more films together. "Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum" is clearly worth checking out, especially for Winkler's and Laser's performances. Give it a chance.