Marlene is no standard movie-star documentary. It is a mystery story, a discourse on truth and fiction, a battle with a sacred monster, a caustic comedy of errors, and the story of the making of a film, all rolled into one.
After years of public silence, the legendary Dietrich personally selected Maximilian Schell to make an interview film about her. Schell saw a golden opportunity to penetrate an enigma; he soon found himself locked in a battle royale. Marlene refused to let him photograph her or even her apartment. She was openly contemptuous of his questions and refused to answer many of them. Schell is candid enough to make himself the butt of his own film, an increasingly comic, exasperated figure with whom Marlene toys much like one of the femmes fatales she portrayed so masterfully on the screen.
Schell fills out the image track with wonderful excerpts of her performances and often bizarre representations of his own dilemma. But dominating the film is Marlene herself, her disembodied voice only heightening her mystique, querulous, witty, provocative, shrewd, unsentimental, always compelling, at times startlingly revealing and moving. It quickly becomes apparent that the friction between director and star is not the film’s liability but its saving grace, rescuing it from conventionality and turning it into a unique and richly entertaining record of an encounter with a real-life legend. —Park Circus
Maximilian Schell may not be a household name, but he is internationally respected, particularly in Europe, as an award-winning actor/director of stage and screen. He was born in Vienna, Austria, on December 8, 1930, but raised in Switzerland after his parents, Swiss author/poet Hermann Ferdinand Schell and Austrian actress Margarethe Noe von Nordberg, fled there to escape the effects of Nazi Germany’s forcible annexation of Austria in 1938. As a young man, Schell studied at three universities — Zurich, Basel, and Munich — before making his professional stage debut in 1952. In 1955, he appeared in his first film, Kinder, Mütter und ein General. He next debuted on Broadway and then in Hollywood, playing a German officer who befriends fellow soldier Marlon Brando in The Young Lions (1958).
Schell earned an Oscar in 1961 for his intriguing performance as a defense attorney in Judgment at Nuremberg, and would subsequently be nominated for Oscars for his work… read more
Horst von Harbou, still photographer on the set of Metropolis (1927) and brother of screenwriter Thea von Harbou, and so, brother-in-law