The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum Movie Review
The main theme of the film, which is about the way that the state and the press use their power and influence to entirely degrade a person who has no means of self defense, is pretty effective. But another message that really comes across is simply, "Beware who you sleep with."
Katharina Blum (Angela Winkler) is an unassuming, young woman who gets involved in a one night stand with an anarchist. The police have a tight lookout on him and the next morning they barge into her place guns blazing. But somehow the anarchist has managed to slip out in the middle of the night.
The police arrest Katharina, interrogate her and then jail her because she refuses to tell them where the anarchist is hiding. Soon the press is all over the case and one National Enquirer-type journalist in particular - in close association with the police - exploits the story and prints a bunch of lies, which lead to Katharina's fall from grace. It should be noted she was once a nun.
The film is based upon a book by Heinrich Böll, a German writer who himself was once the subject of a government smear campaign. But Böll doesn't feel sorry for himself or for the woman's situation. Rather he wrote the book as a warning about what happens when a reactionary government curtails civil rights and what can happen in this situation. The subtitle of the film, in fact, is, "How Violence Can Arise and What It Can Lead To."
The film is directed by both Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta who give the film a documentary feel, especially with its use of handheld cameras and natural lighting. They also did a great job of casting the roles thus making the whole film feel authentic, especially Angela Winkler, who comes across as slightly naïve but strong-willed, and the principal police officials, who come across as tough Germans without being stereotypical.
The story is also quite involving, and as it goes along, the plot twists and turns in profound and suspenseful ways, especially when it becomes apparent that Katharina has fallen in love with the anarchist.
In the tradition of many other feminist political films, Katharina becomes tougher and ultimately goes from being an apathetic, innocent victim to being a unwavering, politically aware player in the game. And even though she loses her honor (her humanity), she finds a way to leave her mark not only on the particular case but on society as a whole.
The Criterion Collection DVD has some good extras including a 30 minute political documentary about Heinrich Böll, a 20 minute interview with both Schlöndorff and von Trotta, and a 15 minute interview with cinematographer Jost Vacano.
Aka Die Verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann.