Katharina Blum

by Chris Bertram on June 26, 2004

Heavy rain in Bristol today, so I spent the afternoon watching Volker Schlondorff’s The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (based on the Heinrich Boll novel). For those who don’t know, the film is about what happens to a young woman after she spends the night with a man who turns out to be a terrorist suspect. She is alternately bullied by the police and villified by the gutter press. What is different today, of course, is the way that the blogosphere serves as an Insta-echo-chamber for tabloid coverage of such stories. One imagines the “Heh”s and “Readthewholethings” that would accompany posts linking to a contemporary Die Zeitung’s online coverage of events. (If you’ve not seen the film, don’t be put off by the sole IMDB commenter, who has also posted politically-motived negative reviews of Rabbit-Proof Fence and Bloody Sunday.)

IRRITATED UPDATE: Why is a classic of the New German Cinema available on DVD in Region 1 but not in Region 2 (including the UK and Germany)?

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1

Randy Paul 06.26.04 at 6:57 pm

Why is a classic of the New German Cinema available on DVD in Region 1 but not in Region 2 (including the UK and Germany)?

Chris,

Having worked in that business for a while in the 1980’s, I’m guessing it’s a rights issue. I’m guessing that Criterion (which is a company that does a great service by obtaining the rights to these often forgotten and neglected films, then charges an arm and a leg to own them) usually only obtains the USA and Canada rights.

I speculated that it might be a good film for Alexandra Pollier to see.

2

fyreflye 06.26.04 at 10:07 pm

So why don’t you have a DVD player that plays PAL, NTSC and All Regions?
Mine, a Norcent DP302V, cost me about $50USD and has never failed me. Those damn’ Chinese Commies make it.
But if by “available” you mean FOR SALE in Region 2 – that’s what the WWW is for.

3

skip 06.27.04 at 1:11 am

Teeny nit – you might want to correct Boll to Boell.

4

Randy Paul 06.27.04 at 2:42 am

Or Böll.

5

bad Jim 06.27.04 at 10:55 am

At the end of one Böll novel, the protagonist guardedly offered the conviction that some version of socialism should, or must, prevail.

In another story, the protagonist worked for a radio station and collected taped silences. Editing blowhards, he was able to trade pompous euphemism for heartfelt utterance for silence – which he treasured.

6

cs 06.27.04 at 11:41 am

If it’s raining over there and you’re having tech problems Chris, I’m sure you could always watch some rugby from Australia ….

7

James Russell 06.27.04 at 1:03 pm

Why is a classic of the New German Cinema available on DVD in Region 1 but not in Region 2 (including the UK and Germany)?

I suspect Randy could be correct over the rights thing, but it could just be arseheadedness on the part of R2 DVD distributors. Until Village Roadshow remembered they’d always had the Australian rights to the Australian-made Mad Max, you could only get that film from the US in the American-dubbed version. Ridiculous…

8

lily 06.27.04 at 1:10 pm

Doesn’t she end up helping the terrorist? Or are we supposd to believe that she only helps him because the cops tick her off?

My whole memory of this film is it’s a complicated moral dilemma not a simple “The cops are bad. Katherina’s being persecuted” story.

It’s about a lonely woman, the attraction of the outlaw, the unsavoury methods of the police, the tabs, choosing what is right, etc. Nothing is clear, which is what makes it a great film.

9

Motoko Kusanagi 06.27.04 at 1:39 pm

What Randy said.

And while your at it, change Schlondorff to Schlöndorff.

10

Rob 06.27.04 at 2:11 pm

The context of the film was also deeply personal for Böll. In the early seventies, during which Germany was rocked by a wave of domestic terror mostly at the hands of the terror gang “The Baader-Meinhof Gruppe,” Böll was extremely active in both the political and literary scenes. After Ulrike Meinhof was arrested, Böll wrote an article for Der Spiegel (“Will Ulrike Gnade oder Freies Geleit?”) in which he argued simply that Ulrike should receive a fair trial. That’s it – that’s all he wanted. This didn’t go over well with the Bild-Zeitung (on which “Die Zeitung” in the film is based), which started running cover stories on Böll that equated him with being some kind of father of terrorism. Bild-Zeitung readers are a pretty specific type, the kind of guys who aren’t real big into thinking things out rationally, rather they’re the sort that are interested in “Page 3” girls…. that sort of thing. Anyhow, the Bild-Zeitung’s attack on Böll had quite a few consequences, including having his house trashed by the police who were searching for possible connections between Böll and the RAF (Red-Army-Fraktion).

Chris is essentially right that the film and the book’s primary focus is an indictment of a media that favors spectacle over fact, but what’s really remarkable is the way that the institution of the police, who are supposed to be above the interference of the media, have this completely symbiotic relationship with the reporter, Tötges. It’s that sort of play between the institutions that Böll is really after, I think.

11

Chris Bertram 06.27.04 at 3:05 pm

Hey, this is a blog not a scholarly journal. Sometimes I can be bothered to look up the html for o-umlaut and sometimes I can’t – deal with it.

Randy, yes, good call on Alex Polier.

Lily, yes, there is that ambiguity. But remember that he’s a “terrorist suspect” not a terrorist. In the film (can’t find my copy of the book) what he’s actually done is desert from the army and rob the regimental safe.

12

Randy Paul 06.27.04 at 4:22 pm

When I lived in Germany around the same time as the novel, Bild was arguably the most odious rag around. Has it changed at all or is it still pretty awful?

13

David Tiley 06.28.04 at 5:59 am

That feller cs is generally under control in his own country. Get him commenting out of Australia and he is evil, pure evil.

Watch rugby indeed.

14

Amy Theron 06.28.04 at 4:23 pm

Just saw now “The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum” and I think it’s a great movie as I spent some time in the Middle East and had some experience with the atmosphere of a blind fear from groups of people waiting to strike at anytime with no consideration of place and time!

15

Amy Theron 06.28.04 at 4:38 pm

Just saw now “The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum” and I think it’s a great movie as I spent some time in the Middle East and had some experience with the atmosphere of a blind fear from groups of people waiting to strike at anytime with no consideration of place and time!

16

Amy Theron 06.28.04 at 4:38 pm

Just saw now “The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum” and I think it’s a great movie as I spent some time in the Middle East and had some experience with the atmosphere of a blind fear from groups of people waiting to strike at anytime with no consideration of place and time!

17

Amy Theron 06.28.04 at 11:23 pm

Just saw now “The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum” and I think it’s a great movie as I spent some time in the Middle East and had some experience with the atmosphere of a blind fear from groups of people waiting to strike at anytime with no consideration of place and time!

18

pendergast 06.29.04 at 10:12 pm

It’s my understanding that the idiots using the comments section of IMDB only ruin the film if you don’t click the ‘Check for Other Comments’ link at the bottom. This will almost always can clean the palette by introducting much more tempered and solid information. Most or all of my favorite films are routinely trashed.

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