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Margarethe von Trotta @ 70

She's been called "narrative cinema's foremost feminist filmmaker," but of course, she's also simply a great director.
The DailyMargarethe von Trotta

Let's join Der Tagesspiegel's Claudia Lenssen in wishing Margarethe von Trotta all the best on her 70th. Lenssen reminds us that when von Trotta hoped to see her first feature, The Second Awakening of Christina Klages (1978), in cinemas, the "fine machos" at the Filmverlag der Autoren in Munich judged it worthy of television, but no more. For the movers and shakers of the New German Cinema, the story of a bank employee and a bank robber who fall for each other was all together too much a woman's picture. Lena (Katharina Thalbach) finds out that the stolen money's supposed to save a kindergarten from being shut down? Not sexy enough.

Lenssen: "Margarethe von Trotta's films are inspired by real events and circumstances. Die bleierne Zeit (Marianne and Juliane, 1981) tells the story of RAF terrorist Gudrun Ensslin and her sister, Christiane, Rosa Luxemburg (1986), the story of the revolutionary who was murdered in Berlin in 1919. Both are prison films, both deal with escape from incarceration and isolation — more importantly: They dwell in the hazy realm between the political and the private."

Introducing his 2010 interview with von Trotta for Filmmaker (the occasion was the release in the US of Vision, based on the life of Hildegard von Bingen), Damon Smith noted that she "was born in Berlin 1942 and relocated to Düsseldorf with her mother after the war. In Paris, where she moved after high school, von Trotta immersed herself in film culture and became a major fixture of the New German Cinema, acting in early films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Gods of the Plague, Beware of a Holy Whore) and collaborating closely with her ex-husband Volker Schlöndorff, with whom she co-directed the 1975 political drama The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, before helming her first feature three years later. In 1981, Von Trotta won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for Marianne and Juliane…, the first time the top prize had gone to a female director since Leni Riefenstahl won 'the Mussolini Cup' for Olympia in 1938. Since then, she has directed more than 15 feature films that touch on themes of sisterhood, strife, and personal acts of resistance."

Margarethe von Trotta

In 2002, Ben Andac argued in Senses of Cinema that von Trotta is "narrative cinema's foremost feminist filmmaker…. [T]here is no other director, male or female, who has matched von Trotta's single-minded determination to show cinema audiences real female characters. Whilst past great directors such as Kenji Mizoguchi have tackled feminist issues to some degree, von Trotta stands as one of the first women to break through the male-dominated film industry to further film study and analyze the dominant subjective views of women in films." Even so: "It would be wrong to categorize von Trotta, who was certainly a pioneer in the public process of women's emancipation during the 70s, as simply a feminist, a woman filmmaker. She is often regarded more highly abroad than in her home country — a fate she shares with those other German master auteurs Wenders, Herzog, Fassbinder and Schlöndorff. She is particularly acclaimed at pre-eminent film festivals such as Venice and Cannes. In these two countries specifically, Italy and France, upon mention of her name, the response is invariably an admiring 'La Trotta.' She is probably the only woman in her profession to enjoy such a lasting reputation, and this is nothing to do with the fact that she is a woman director, but rather because she is a brilliant one."

The European Graduate School has a full biography. Earlier, in March 2011: "Margarethe von Trotta @ Birds Eye View."

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