Margarethe von Trotta was awarded at festivals in Venice and Berlin, and marked her place in the history of film as an outstanding representative of New German Cinema.
Apart from numerous film successes, she had one more triumph, perhaps the most important one: when she was starting her career, the mythical chair with “Director” written on it was reserved primarily for men. The work and approach of Margarethe von Trotta effectively contributed to changing this inequitable norm.
Born in 1942 in Berlin, she spent her childhood years in Düsseldorf. Her mother, Elisabeth von Trotta, came from an aristocratic family, and her father, Alfred Roloff, was a valued painter. At the age of 18 von Trotta left to Paris. It was in France that she came to know the masterpieces of Alfred Hitchcock and Ingmar Bergman, and where she observed the freshly emerging phenomenon of the French New Wave. The cinema of the masters made such an impression on her that she decided to go the path of film.
She did not go to directing straight away. In the first half of the 60s this profession was still reserved for men. At first Von Trotta worked as an actress. At the end of the decade, when Germany was home to a vibrantly developing wave of New German Cinema, she decided to engage in its creation. “The old cinema is dead. We believe in the new cinema,” as the authors of the famous Oberhausen manifesto claimed. They were right – their work is still believed to be a milestone in the development of German cinema. Margarethe von Trotta played in films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Volker Schlöndorff, the leading artists of the wave. The author of “The Tin Drum” became her partner not only in her professional life, but also in her private life.
In 1971 von Trotta and Schlöndorff got married, and four years later they directed “The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum” together. The adaptation of prose by Heinrich Böll was an important addition to the then ongoing debate on the nature of tabloids. Regardless of the film’s success, the young director’s ambition was unfulfilled. Von Trotta felt that she was overshadowed by her husband. She decided to direct her next project on her own.
Her fully independent debut, “The Second Awakening of Christa Klages,” was awarded at the 1978 Berlin festival. But even more important for her career were next two movies: “Sisters, or The Balance of Happiness” and “Marianne and Juliane”. The latter film was inspired by the story of Gudrun Ensslin, member of the Baader-Meinhof group, and her sister Christane. It received the most important awards in Venice and brought the director worldwide fame.
It was on the set of “Marianne and Juliane” where von Trotta met Barbara Sukowa, with whom she worked six more times later on, developing her directorial talents. The Two Riversides audience will have a chance to watch the popular works of the duo: “Rosa Luxemburg,” about famous labour movements activist killed by the German Freikorps soldiers, in which Daniel Olbrychski stars along Sukowa; “Vision,” about brave and charismatic nun Hildegarda von Bingen; and the biography of “Hannah Arendt” – one of the most perceptive thinkers of the XXth century, the author of the influential theory about the “banality of evil”.
An important part of the retrospective will be the premiere screening of “The Misplaced World,” the newest von Trotta’s film starring Barbara Sukowa. The intimate story was shown on this year’s Berlinale, where it reminded critics and the rest of the audience about the cinema of Krzysztof Kieślowski. The director will be the guest of the Two Riversides Film and Art Festival and will personally introduce her film to the viewers.
“The Misplaced World,” like her previous works, tells a story about women. Due to this choice of topics and heroines, critics sometimes call the German director’s films feminist, thus reducing her artistic work to this one aspect. It is, however, worth not to label her this way, and to familiarise oneself with von Trotta’s stories about brave, strong women – ones much like herself.
2015 Misplaced World, The | 2012 Hannah Arendt | 2009 Vision – Aus dem Leben der Hildegard von Bingen (Vision) | 2006 Ich bin die Andere (I Am the Other Woman) | 2003 Rosenstrasse | 1999 Dunkle Tage | 1995 Versprechen, Das (Promise, The) | 1990 L’Africana (African Woman, The) | 1988 Paura e amore (Three Sisters) | 1986 Geduld der Rosa Luxemburg, Die (Rosa Luxemburg) | 1981 Bleierne Zeit, Die (German Sisters, The) | 1979 Schwestern oder Die Balance des Glücks (Sisters, or The Balance of Happiness) | 1975 Verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum, Die (Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, The) – with: Volker Schlöndorff)