"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.
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