Lili Marleen (1981)

R  |   |  Drama, Music, Romance  |  14 January 1981 (West Germany)
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Reviews: 7 user | 25 critic

In Switzerland German singer 'Willie' falls in love with Jewish composer 'Robert' who offers resistance to the Nazis by helping refugees. But his family thinks that 'Willie' is also a Nazi ... See full summary »


(original screenplay), (screenplay), 4 more credits »
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1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
David Mendelsson
Karl-Heinz von Hassel ...
Henkel (as Karl Heinz von Hassel)
Erik Schumann ...
von Strehlow
Hark Bohm ...
Karin Baal ...
Anna Lederer
Roger Fritz ...
Rainer Will ...
Raúl Gimenez ...
Blonsky (as Raul Giminez)
Adrian Hoven ...
Willy Harlander ...


In Switzerland German singer 'Willie' falls in love with Jewish composer 'Robert' who offers resistance to the Nazis by helping refugees. But his family thinks that 'Willie' is also a Nazi and may be a risk for them. One day 'Willie' helps 'Robert' but has to stay in Germany. As Willie starts to sing the song 'Lili Marleen' she becomes very famous and every soldier hears that song via radio at 8 pm. Although even Hitler wants to meet her she still does not forget 'Robert' and helps to smuggle photos of concentration camps to the free Switzerland. When 'Robert' wants to visit her he is captured he can finally get free again but he will never see Willie again until war is over. Written by Marco Louis <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

switzerland | song | nazi | love | soldier | See All (54) »


Drama | Music | Romance | War


R | See all certifications »





Release Date:

14 January 1981 (West Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Lili Marlene  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


DEM 10,500,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


West Germany's official Foreign Language Film submission at the 54th Academy Awards. The film failed to be nominated. See more »


Robert is put in a Gestapo cell to find out who he is; apparently at least a week passes. Finally the ruthless ones find out that he knows Willi, the star, and decide to have them confronted, yet at this point he looks his clean-shaved best and is even better dressed than on the night of his arrest. See more »


References Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980) See more »

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User Reviews

The Chiasm of Offender and Victim
23 January 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Many critics have felt offended that R.W. Fassbinder has portrayed both protagonist Wilkie and the Nazis in this movie in a human-like manner. Connoisseurs of other Fassbinder films, however, will realize that "Lili Marleen" (1981) belongs to Fassbinder's "women movies" like "The Marriage of Maria Braun" (1979) and "Lola" (1981). Fassbinder was convinced that "stories can be told much better with women than with men", because, according to Fassbinder, while men usually fulfill their determined roles in society, "women are capable of thinking in a dialectic manner". Dialectics, however, means that there is not only a thesis and its antithesis like usually in our black-and-white world, but a synthesis where the oppositions coincide. Moreover, dialectic means that because of the third instance of synthesis the absolute opposition of the difference between thesis and antithesis is abolished. Concretely speaking: Starting from a dialect point of view and portraying the fascist state, the underground fighters must necessarily use the basic means like the rulers do, and between offenders and victims there is thus a chiastic relation, so that every offender is also victim and every victim is also offender. Fassbinder has illustrated this abstract scheme, that transcends classical logic, in his play "The City, the Garbage and the Death" (1975) which was filmed by Daniel Schmid under the title "Shadow of Angels" (1976).

Therefore, approaching an a priori controversial topic like Nazi Germany, in a dialectic manner, the depiction of this time in the form of a movie gets even more controversial, especially for people who cannot or do not want to see that our recognition of the world is by far not exhausted with a primitive light-switch schema, but needs the third instance of synthesis as controlling instance of its opposite members thesis and antithesis. The mutual relationship between offenders and victims has to scrutinized, since it is simply not true that the offenders are the bad ones and the victims the good ones. In a synthetic viewpoint, the bad ones participate on the goodness as the good ones participate on the badness. They are mutually related. In a world-view based on classical logic, a relation between good and bad cannot even been established, and in an ethics based on this insufficient system of logic, the bad conscience of the survivors of Nazi Germany, feeling (illogically enough) responsible for the deeds of their ancestors, exclude the possibility of a relationship between the two extremes and thus a synthesis in the form a new evaluation based on this relationship as well. From Fassbinder's dialectic viewpoint, it follows that neither Lili Marleen nor Lola nor Maria Braun can be condemned for their "misuse" of the ruling system for their private purposes, because they don't misuse them, they just use them. In the opposite, since victims must repeat the actions of the offenders as the offenders must repeat the actions of the victims, because "good" and "bad" are no longer simple mirror images of one another like in two-valued logic, their strategies are legitimated by the chiastic structure of a logic that describes our world, that is not black and white at all, much better than a black-and-white logic.

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