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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum
Directed by Volker Schlöndorff, Margarethe von Trotta
Criterion Collection 1975 DVD/VHS Feature Film

Directors Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta have brought to the screen Heinrich Böll's recent novel about the omnipresence of an evil that enables individuals to kill with sophisticated twentieth century weapons — print and the violation of privacy. This sinister violence is a Dionysian force sheltered behind middle-class German respectability and worship of law and order.

Katharina Blum (Angela Winkler) loses her honor by one small mistake which brings havoc and destruction into her simple life as a housekeeper. She spends an evening with a young man at a carnival party. It turns out that the police are looking for him and their brief encounter brings police surveillance and an attack on her character by a newspaper reporter (Dieter Laser). All on the basis of circumstantial evidence, he vilifies her as a whore, an atheist, and a Communist sympathizer. Her once tranquil life becomes a nightmare of anonymous hate phone calls and letters. Katharina finally murders the reporter. This movie is an unrelenting terror. It presents a very strong case against yellow journalism.


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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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