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Rosa Luxemburg (1986)

After years of political agitation, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, and Leo Jogiches form a revolutionary German party, the Spartacists.
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Barbara Sukowa ... Rosa Luxemburg
Daniel Olbrychski ... Leo Jogiches
Otto Sander ... Karl Liebknecht
Adelheid Arndt Adelheid Arndt ... Luise Kautsky
Jürgen Holtz Jürgen Holtz ... Karl Kautsky
Doris Schade Doris Schade ... Clara Zetkin
Hannes Jaenicke ... Kostja Zetkin
Jan Biczycki Jan Biczycki ... August Bebel (as Jan-Paul Biczycki)
Karin Baal ... Mathilde Jacob
Winfried Glatzeder Winfried Glatzeder ... Paul Levi
Regina Lemnitz Regina Lemnitz ... Gertrud
Barbara Lass ... Rosas Mutter
Dagna Drozdek Dagna Drozdek ... Rosa - 6 Jahre
Henryk Baranowski Henryk Baranowski ... Josef - Rosas Bruder
Patrizia Lazreg Patrizia Lazreg ... Josefs Tochter


Wronke Prison, 1916. Social democrat Rosa Luxemburg faces a mock execution. Twenty years earlier, Rosa's political gifts are acknowledged by everyone, as she struggles for democratic government in Germany and revolution in Poland. There she works closely with Leo Jogiches. Their political activity creates some difficulty for their personal relationship... As international tensions rise, Rosa makes speeches denouncing war and militarism. She seems too radical for her fellow Socialists. She meets Karl Liebknecht. When World War I begins, Rosa and Karl are united in opposition... Written by David Carless

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German | Polish | French

Release Date:

10 April 1986 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

Rosa L. See more »

Filming Locations:

Berlin, Germany See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Rainer Werner Fassbinder was planning to direct this in early 1983. Jane Fonda had already agreed to play the lead when Fassbinder suddenly died in June 1982. See more »


[first lines]
Rosa Luxemburg: Sonja, you are bitter about my long enprisonment and ask: "How is it that some people may decide the fate of others?". My dear, all history is based on people deciding the fate of others and that is deeply rooted in the conditions of our material existence. The only way to change this is by painful upheaval. You ask: "What is it all for?" "What for" conveys nothing about the totality of life and its many forms. Why do blue tits exist? I really have no idea but I'm glad they do ...
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Featured in Die Neugier immer weiter treiben (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

"Lyrically memorializing..."
17 March 2015 | by SindreKaspersenSee all my reviews

German screenwriter, film professor, producer and director Margarethe Von Trotta's sixth feature film which she wrote, is inspired by the life of a renowned Polish-German-Jewish 19th and 20th century author, philosopher, economist and editor. It premiered in West Germany, was screened In competition at the 39th Cannes International Film Festival in 1986, was shot on locations in West Germany and Czechoslovakia and is a West Germany-Czechoslovakia co-production which was produced by producers Eberhard Junkersdorf and Regina Ziegler. It tells the story about a daughter, sister, friend and Polish and German citizen who was born in Zamość, Poland into Congress Poland (1815-1915) then a part of Tsarist Russia (1721-1917), during the German Empire (1871-1919) when a German state called Prussia (1525-1947) had a King and Emperor named William Friedrich Ludwig (1831-1888) and a Queen and Empress named Augusta Marie Luise Katharina (1811-1890), the same year as the Unification of Germany in the Mirror Hall at the Palace of Versailles in France, the initiation of the Paris Commune, the birth of a German attorney and political theorist named Karl Liebknecht (1871-1919), a Belgian philology professor and journalist named Camille Huysmans (1871-1968), the establishment of the Social Democrats in Denmark, seven years before an international congress in Paris, France, thirteen years before an English-German-Jewish schoolteacher named Eleanor Marx (1855-1898) joined a political party called the Social Democratic Federation (1881-1911) and less than a century after the French Revolution (1789-1799).

Distinctly and precisely directed by German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta, this quietly paced fictional tale which is narrated by and mostly from the main character's point of view, draws a reflective and humane portrayal of an inquisitive political theoretician and lecturer who opposed all forms of autocracy, war and absolutism, was called Red Rosa, Bloody Rosa and stateless by her prosecutors, who forty-nine years after the birth of a Norwegian-Jewish daughter named Cissi Pera Klein (1929-1943) began studying at Warsaw's Second Gymnasium for Girls as a nine-year-old where daughters of soldiers were favored and she was hierarchically degraded due to her origins and prohibited from speaking her inherent language, as a ten-year-old witnessed a pogrom, as a fifteen-year-old became a member of the Proletariat Party of Poland (1882-1886) and in the late 19th century as an eighteen-year-old exiled to Zürich, Switzerland where she began studying state science at the University of Zürich where a German women's rights advocate named Anita Augsprung (1857-1953) was studying. While notable for its atmospheric milieu depictions, reverent cinematography by cinematographer Fritz Rath and production design by production designers Bernd Lepel and Stephan Exner, this dialog-driven and narrative-driven story about political history recognizes a praised, criticized, dedicated and multilingual person of letters who liked music, painting and botany, who was raised as the youngest of five siblings by her father named Eliasz Luxemburg and her mother named Lina Löwenstein and who once authored: "This above all confers to the title of letter-writer."

Envisaging real events from the lifetime of an influential thinker, lover, speaker at assemblies, frequent prisoner and writer of articles, letters, leaflets and critiques with the pen name Junius who as a twenty-two-year-old started a newspaper called Worker's Cause with a Lithuanian émigré, editor and politician named Leo Jogiches (1867-1919), as a twenty-seven-year-old became a Doctor of Public Law and Political Science, moved to Germany where she became a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany and befriended a German author, teacher and lecturer named Clara Zetkin (1858-1933) who in the early 1900s in London, England presented the case for universal equal suffrage for women during a demonstration, as a thirty-year-old had experienced the passing of her parents, as a thirty-two-year-old entered a marriage of convenience, in 1906 was released from a Polish prison and as a forty-three-year-old founded an underground journal which developed into the Spartacus League (1915-1918), which was made six years before a then twenty-eight-year-old American singer and pianist sang the following words on a stage in Montreaux, Switzerland: "It was me and a gun and a man on my back ", more than a century after the birth of a German teacher named Käte Duncker (1871-1953) and a German poet named Louise Otto (1819-1895) and two centuries after an English 18th century author and teacher named Mary Wollstonecraft (1757-1797) created a boarding school for girls, depicts an abridged study of character and contains a great and timely score by composer Nicolas Economou.

This densely biographical, historic and heartfelt reconstruction from the late 1980s which is set mostly in Poland and Germany during the First World War (1914-1918) and where a versatile precursor and insurgent who initiated a daily paper called The Red Flag in Berlin, Germany in 1918 as a forty-seven-year-old, was murdered by a German navy official the same year as the introduction of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), twenty-one years after an officer accused of treason in the Dreyfus Affair (1896-1906), was convicted to life imprisonment and relocated to a place called Devil's Island, twenty-nine years after the proletarian women's movement made a magazine called Equality (1890-1925), eleven years after women in Germany gained the right to participate in politics, fifty years before the then East Germany government named a place in Berlin-Mitte, Germany The Rosa Luxemburg Square, who as a thirteen-year-old student wrote: "At last we shall see you, ruler of the west, or that is if you come to Saxony Garden, as I will not be visiting your court...", whose life underlines the ingeniousness of a three-letter Latin and seven-letter German word and who as a five-year-old human being with a name signifying a rose learned the art of reading and writing, is impelled and reinforced by its fragmented narrative structure, subtle character development and continuity, use of archival footage and the virtuous acting performance by German actress Barbara Sukowa. A lyrically memorializing narrative feature.

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