THE LOST HONOR OF KATHARINA BLUM
Review by Michael Jacobson
Angela Winkler, Mario Adorf, Dieter Laser, Jurgen Prochnow
Directors: Volker Schlondorff, Margarethe von Trotta
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: March 4, 2003
are you scared of? Aren’t you
amazing how some political films grow more, and not less, topical with the
passage of time. The Lost Honor
of Katharina Blum tells the story of a country gone mad with the fear of
terrorists, and how democracy and civil liberties can easily become casualties
in the quest for peace and safety. But
neither this film nor the novel it was based on could have foreseen the events
of September 11, 2001 when they first came out more than 25 years ago.
easy to draw parallels between the world of Katharina Blum and our society,
where paranoia is always dangerously close to snuffing out compassion.
But truth be told, the novel and the film more reflect the fear of a
runaway press than a runaway government. Author
Heinrich Boll suffered personal attacks and career damage from one of
Germany’s prominent tabloid papers; it’s no wonder that “The Paper”, as
it is referred to in the story, seems to march forward and over the lives of
people like a mindless Nazi goose step.
directed by Volker Schlondorff and Margarethe von Trotta, The Lost Honor of
Katharina Blum seems to sadly and satirically contemplate the fate of its naïve
title character. Blum (Winkler) is
a simple housekeeper who makes the mistake of falling for the charms of Ludwig (Prochnow)
and spending a romantic evening with him in her apartment, not knowing that
he’s a notorious terrorist that the government has been searching for.
Ludwig avoids capture, but the police seize Katharina in her home, where they
clumsily search everything and force her to change clothes in full view before
taking her in for interrogation. A
hastily written quote she had copied from Karl Marx doesn’t help her case, nor
does the overwhelming need of the police force to prove they’ve accomplished
SOMETHING in their war against terrorism.
if the cops seem brutal and unfeeling, the press seems rabid and zealous.
They wage a paper-selling but grossly unfair smear campaign against
Katharina, twisting words and re-inventing quotes from her associates and
employers, and even sneaking in to see her terminally ill mother for a monstrous
confrontation that possibly kills her. All
in the gloating name of freedom of the press.
that freedom of the press that is trumpeted at the finale, though one can easily
discern a difference between the falsely noble spoken words and the truth of
what we’ve seen tragically play out. Katharina’s
final act of self defense may be a crowd pleaser to the viewing audience, but
not to the world she’s ensnared in.
is a thoughtful, if sometimes over-the-top look at what can happen when fear
runs rampant and when innocent lives have their cost calculated in public
temperance and publications sold. The
cops’ over-eagerness to turn Katharina into a dangerous criminal seems a bit
too far-fetched for me at points…but then again, maybe it’s more realistic
than we’d care to admit. And
maybe too close for comfort.
is a superb anamorphic offering from Criterion! The quality of the coloring, the clarity of the images, the
sharpness of the detail from start to finish are absolute perfection.
You’d never guess the age of the movie by the transfer, which makes it
seem even more current and topical. Highest
mono soundtrack is more than adequate, with seemingly clean and clear dialogue
throughout, and a few more rambunctious scenes that give the audio a little more
spatial depth and dynamic range.
disc includes new interview footage with co-directors Schlondorff and von Trotta,
plus a new interview with cinematographer Jost Vacano (who also supervised the
DVD transfer), excerpts from a 1977 documentary about author Heinrich Boll, plus
the original trailer.