Young Törless

As evident in our journey through Criterion, Volker Schlöndorff makes interestingly complicated films that press viewers to think about human behavior and how we treat one another. Also ones in which a good chunk of humans, particularly men in the ethnic majority, are sociopathic. These themes, of course, are not uncommon in German cinema of the post-WW2 era.

1966's Young Törless is another variation on that melody, this time emphasizing the ease with which we go along with the oppressive behavior of others in order to fit in. The narrative is not without its own problems, but Schlöndorff manages to remind us how easy it is to help the oppressor, and to slip away convinced you did nothing wrong. It's a lesson much of humanity, again particularly men in the ethnic majority, still needs to learn.

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The Tin Drum

Yesterday was Hitler's birthday, so here's a film with a complicated relationship to Nazis?

On the one hand Volker Schlondorff's The Tin Drum (1979) does show some of the horrors of living under Nazi occupation in Gdańsk-- I've just now learned that Danzig is the German name for the city, and it seems inappropriate to use it here, Gdansk is the Polish name  -- and it briefly embodies the aftermath of the Holocaust in one scarred character (who was only recently re-added to the film for this Criterion release). On the other it is based on a book by a man that hid that he was a Nazi soldier for decades and is about someone who uses Nazism when its useful to him and abandons it when its not.

Of course it's also about a little boy who quite literally refuses to grow up.

As I said, it's complicated.

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Coup de Grâce

The year after their brilliant film The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, married moviemakers Margarethe von Trotta and Volker Schlondorff split their duties with Schlondorff staying behind the camera for Coup de Grace while von Trorra does double duty as co-writer and star. Filmed in 1976 and set in 1919, the filmmakers split the difference and rather successfully made a film that seems to have been made in 1939 for all it's melodrama and technology, though with its graphic depiction of war and its emotional consequences perhaps not in America in 1939. Oh goodness the emotional consequences.

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The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum

There's a lot of talk in US politics lately of criminalizing womanhood, but then men have always had a tendency to use prison or mental wards to control women who don't act the way the patriarchy would like. You know, when we weren't just burning them at the stake.

If that last paragraph has you scoffing or rolling your eyes, you may want to avoid this week's Lost in Criterion as we take on Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta's The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1975), a tale of a woman criminalized for normal behavior to the nth degree. But Blum is more than that, as it also tackles the corrupting relationship between law enforcement and the media, and how both forces spread fear through the masses, decimating civil rights under the guise of "anti-terrorism". It's brilliant, hard to watch, and teaches lessons that we continually need reminded of.

On second thought, if you were rolling your eyes, definitely watch the film in question. And learn a thing.