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Katharina Blum is a young handsome German maid. She meets Ludwig, and they fall in love at once. They spend the night together. In the morning, the police bursts in her flat, looking for Ludwig : he is a terrorist. But he was no longer here. Katharina is arrested, humiliated, suspected to be a terrorist herself, dragged in the mud by the newspapers... A plea for democracy and individual rights. Written by
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The shots that killed Werner Tötges didn't hit him alone. They were aimed at Freedom of the Press, one of the most precious values of our young Democracy. And these shots - for us who stand here in grief and horror - they strike us. Just as they struck him. Who doesn't feel the wound? Who doesn't feel the sorrow above and beyond one's personal concerns? Who doesn't feel the breath of terror, the savage of anarchy, the violence which is undermining the foundations of our liberal-democratic order...
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The legal disclaimer reads as follows: 'Personen und Handlung sind frei erfunden. Sollten sich bei der Schilderung gewisser journalistischer Praktiken Aehnlichkeiten mit den Praktiken der BILD-Zeitung ergeben haben, so sind diese Aehnlichkeiten weder beabsichtigt noch zufaellig, sondern unvermeidlich.' (Characters and plot are purely fictitious. Similarities with journalistic practices of the newspaper "BILD" are neither intended nor coincidental, but inevitable.) This is a direct quote from the introduction to the original novel by Heinrich Böll. See more »
A mild-mannered divorced woman Katharina Blum (Angela Winkler) meets a nice guy called Ludwig (Jürgen Prochnow) at a party and spends a night with him. The next morning, she is shocked to wake up to see a special police unit storming into her apartment, seeking to arrest Ludwig to no avail as he has already left. It turns out Ludwig is a highly wanted criminal involved in anarchist activity and Katharina is arrested as well as a potential associate. Her name and pictures are published in trashy tabloids and particularly an almost caricature-like journalist called Tötges (Dieter Laser) is completely unashamed of dragging her whole life through dirt by selling fabricated stories to his magazine.
The film examines the effects of the witch-hunt caused by the press and was inspired by writer Heinrich Böll's own experiences. The atmosphere of anxiety is created subtly with some avant-garde music and bleak photography. Some of the scenes during Katharina's imprisonment have Kafkaesque loneliness written all over them in an effective, distressing manner. Angela Winkler shows all these feelings naturally without much dialogue.
Even though the exploration of Katharina's emotions during the media spectacle is interesting, the slow-paced film feels a little too long at times and could have benefited from being trimmed down a bit in the middle. On the other hand, in the beginning I would have liked to see more of Katharina and Ludwig's short relationship as it could have explained her fondness for him better. Now it doesn't seem all clear why she wants to protect him despite all the troubles it causes her. Also, the film is understandably completely on Katharina's side but the ending comes across as a little heavy-handed, partly due to the overwrought performance of the priest in the epilogue.
In spite of minor complaints, I think Katharina Blum is a good and still highly relevant film and I recommend it to anyone interested in slow-paced character studies and bleak dramas. Those interested in the power of the Press and the hypocrisy of the public should also check it out.
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