Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum (The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum) (1975)
Directors: Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta.
Starring: Angela Winkler (Katharina Blum), Mario Adorf (Kommissar Beizmenne), Dieter Laser (Werner Tötges), Jürgen Prochnow (Ludwig Götten), Heinz Bennent (Dr. Blorna), Hannelore Hoger (Trude Blorna), Rolf Becker (Staatsanwalt Hach), Harald Kuhlmann (Moeding), Herbert Fux (Weninger), Regine Lutz (Else Woltersheim), Werner Eichhorn (Konrad Beiters), Karl Heinz Vosgerau (Alois Sträubleder), Angelika Hillebrecht (Frau Pletzer), Horatius Häberle (Staatsanwalt Dr. Korten), Henry van Lyck ('Schaich' Karl).
panic over Red Army Faction terrorism in the 1970s Germany
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
February 5, 1975. A guy on a ferry is being watched and filmed by the authorities. He lands and steals a car. At a bar, he gets invited to a party. He uses the stolen car to drive a group of people to the party. The car is followed by the authorities. At the party the man is known as Ludwig. He dances with Katharina Blum. They immediately to take a liking to one another. Ludwig goes home with Katharina.
The man in charge of the agents following Ludwig is Kommissar Beizmenne. He receives a report on Katharina Blum and her cousin Else Woltersheim.
February 6, 1975. Government agents burst through Katharina's apartment door and she is forced against the wall. Beizmenne demands to know where he (Ludwig) is. Katharina tells him that he left before she got up this morning. They find out that she works as a domestic for the lawyer Blornas and his wife. Beizmenne asks Katharina if the man they want had sex with her (although he said it much more bluntly). She is given a full body search.
Katharina is taken down to the police station for questioning. The questioning really gets out-of-hand and Beizmenne almost acts the buffoon in his jumping to conclusions about Katharina and her relationship with Ludwig. He, the D.A. and others are trying to prove that Katharina is a terrorist and has been one for a long time and that she worked with the terrorist Ludwig. Katharina is so disgusted that she wants to be placed in a jail cell rather than stay around her interrogators. So they handcuff her and man-handle her a bit while taking her to her cell.
Newspaper reporter Toetges goes to Mrs. Blum's house to get an interview with her. He learns that she is in the county hospital. Toetges talks with Katharina's ex-husband, Wilhelm Brettloh. He is basically positive in his remarks about Katharina, but Toetges completely distorts and fabricates quotes to his liking to make them extremely damaging to Katharina.
Another news reporter interviews lawyer Blorna about Katharina. Blorna is reluctant to talk about the former employee, so the reporter threatens him by telling him that if doesn't talk about Katharina, it will make him (Blorna) look bad.
Beizmenne comes up with the great idea that Katharina's very small apartment was a terrorist hide-out. And Katharina has been hiding a lot of different terrorists. Making Beizmenne look even worse, he cooperates with the disreputable Toetges feeding him information about Katharina in return for news gained from interviews.
Katharina watches as Mrs. Schwill and Mr. Ruhwiedel, people she knows, go into interrogation. Then it's Katharina turn again. They ask her how many men she has been with. She tells them she has only had one gentleman friend in the past two years. They want to know the name of the "friend" but Katharina will not give them the name. They let Katharina go home.
At home Katharina gets a hate call on the telephone and then a neighbor pushes a nasty note under her door. She takes her car and goes for a ride only to be followed by the police.
February 7, 1975. Katharina calls her ex-husband about the brutal things he said about her in the newspaper. He tells her that he just said positive things and Katharina believes him. She goes to visit Father Urbanus after she receives a note from him. When she gets to the church Father Urbanus quickly takes her to a room where her "gentleman friend" is waiting for her. The friend tells Katharina that he loves her and wants to help her. Apparently it was Katherina who broke off the relationship. It is quickly revealed that what the friend really wants from Katharina is the key to their country liaison house he had forced her to take. Katharina quickly gets away from her one-time friend.
Toetges illegally and secretly breaks into Mrs. Blum's hospital room and tries to interview her. He tells her about the trouble her daughter has gotten herself into, but all he gets from the ailing mother is the constant repeat of the word "why?". But that doesn't bother Toetges. He just makes up some sensational and harmful statements and says that this is what Katharina's mother told him.
Mrs. Woltershein tries to come to the aid of Katharina. She and her boy friend come with Katharina to the police station. This starts up the libeling machine and the police and Toetges share information about Mrs. Woltershein. Apparently she is an illegitimate child. Her father was Peter Lumm a Communist who in 1932 went to the Soviet Union where he just disappeared. Beizmenne talks with Mrs. Woltershein and asks her if she knows that Katharina has driven 50,000 kilometers all around Germany. No, she did not know that.
Beizmenne and his staff start questioning Katharina focusing on those 50,000 kilometers. Katharina thinks about it and realizes that their calculations are correct. But she adds that she never realized how many kilometers she had racked up by taking car rides at night (to escape her loneliness).
Katharina, accompanied by Mrs. Woltershein, goes home to more hate calls and hate mail. She throws many glass pieces against her walls making a real mess. After her company goes to bed she makes a telephone call to Ludwig. Apparently, she knows where he is and has his telephone number.
February 8, 1975. Attorney Blorna and his wife pay a visit to one of the officials working on Katharina's case. Blorna accuses the man of supplying the newspaper Bild Zeitung with insider information damaging to Katharina and to the Blornas. He promises to file an inquest about the collaboration go get to the bottom of the matter.
The Blornas return home. They talk about Katharina's gentleman friend, Alois. At that very moment Alois drives up to the house. He tells Blorna to stop Katharina from giving her personal story to Toetges because it will hurt him personally. Then Alois drops a bomb shell. He tells his lawyer that he thinks that Ludwig is actually staying at his country place that he used to use as a trysting place with Katharina and to which Katharina has a key. Alois believes that Katharina gave Ludwig the key and he wants his lawyer Blorna to check on the country house. Blorna refuses and Alois says that they will have to part ways.
Katharina picks up her recently deceased mother's belongings at the hospital. The mother's doctor tells her that he is thinking about suing Toetges for having illegally entered the deceased's recovery room. He says that after all the mother had a successful operation and was recovering well until the time that Toetges paid the mother a visit on her recovery bed. Katharina goes outside and cries over her mother.
As Katharina drives home, she sees a massive police convoy heading somewhere. She follows the police to their destination not far off. She watches the police and the reporters at her old trysting place with Alois. The reporter says that the house belongs to an executive, major party official and university professor Alois Straeubleder. Katharina learns that Ludwig has been captured alive with only a bullet wound to the thigh.
Katharina talks to lawyer Blorna who tells her that Ludwig will probably get from 8 to 10 years in prison. He tells Katharina that she should not go through with the interview with Toetges, but she says that she has to see the face of such an evil man.
February 9, 1975. Katharina covers up like a Muslim woman and pays a visit to her local bar. But she is recognized and harassed. She has to flee from the bar.
At home Katharina takes a pistol from a drawer. Toetges shows up for the interview. He brags that he has made her famous and that now she can make really serious money from her notoriety. He actually acts as if he has done her a big favor. She remains very quiet and still sitting in a chair. Toetges is emboldened by her passive behavior and asks her to have sex with him before they do the interview. He approaches her and brings her up off the seat up to him. All of a sudden a shot goes off. Toetges has obviously been shot in the stomach area. This is followed by three more shots.
Later Beizmenne tells Katharina that a corpse has been found in the woods. He wants to know if she killed Toetges.
Ludwig is given a police escort to prison. His group suddenly encounters a group of police escorting Katharina to prison. The two lovers run to each other and the police have a tough time forcing them apart.
Epilogue. Toetges receives a huge funeral with many journalists and politicians in attendance. Leuding, the owner of the scandalous newspaper, says that the assassination of Toetges was really a shot at freedom of the press in Germany and that everyone has to work to preserve that freedom in spite of the killing.
Pretty good movie, but it is seriously flawed. The movie was based on the story of Heinrich Boll, a pacifist, who the newspapers accused of being the father of the violence used by the German New Left. Boll sued the newspaper, but lost his case. So the story is really about the lost honor of Mr. Boll rather than the fictitious Katharina Blum. The movie could have been a good one if they had not made Katharina Blum a person illegally harboring a criminal. Before this crime was revealed, the viewer can be righteously indignant about the treatment of Ms. Blum by the police and the newspapers. But once it is known that she was harboring a criminal, you realize that she would have ruined her own reputation anyway as soon as the public learned about her crime. If the screenplay had just left Ms. Blum as a complete innocent framed by the evil police and newspapers for having sex with a terrorist, the movie could have been a satisfying one. But with the woman's crime, the attack on Katharina as involved with terrorism and terrorists by the police and newspapers does not really seem that unjust. So what can we say now. Only that everyone in the movie has dirty hands and the movie is unsatisfying.
The movie was also unsatisfying because Katharina was just too mousy and passive when confronted with wild accusations about her behavior. An innocent person would have gotten a lawyer first of all and would also have stood up to the police against their crazy charges. It was very frustrating watching Katharina let one charge after another just sail past her.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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