The Golden Bear winning director had been battling cancer

Veteran German filmmaker Werner Schroeter has died shortly after his 65th birthday following a three-year battle with cancer.

At this year’s Berlinale, the maverick artist – who had also worked for the theatre and opera between film projects – had been honoured by the Teddy Foundation with a Special Teddy in recognition of his standing as “one of the most important players in the emerging young German cinema” and “one of the greats of the gay culture in its early emancipation movement of postwar Germany.”

Described by film academic Thomas Elsaesser as “the German cinema’s greatest marginal filmmaker”, Schroeter had come to wider recognition in 1969 with his first feature film Eika Katappa which won the Josef von Sternberg Prize at the film festival in Mannheim.

In 1980, he became the first German filmmaker to win the Golden Bear at the Berlinale for the film Palermo oder Wolfsburg, one of the few films in New German Cinema to broach the subject of foreigners attempting to integrate into German society.   

In 1990, he had his first collaboration with French actress Isabelle Huppert on the adaptation of the Elfriede Jelinek novel Malina which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991 and won German Film Prize for Best Film and Best Director that year.

Schroeter’s next film did not appear until Deux, again with Huppert, which premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight in 2002 to great acclaim. 

Another six years passed before his last feature film Nuit de Chien, starring Pascal Greggory, Bruno Todeschini, and Jean-Francois Stevenin, premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2008 where he was presented with a Golden Lion for his life’s work.

Last month, Schroeter and his regular collaborator, the DoP Elfi Mikesch were presented with the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Film Prize in Bielefeld where Schroeter had spent his childhood.

Frieder Schlaich, Schroeter’s producer on Nuit de Chien, said that despite all of the signs, his friend’s death had “come much too suddenly. We still had so many important projects.” One of planned projects had been Salome Revisited to be shot on location in Morocco.

Schlaich noted, however, that one small consolation was the news that Elfi Mikesch is working on a film portrait of Schroeter. (ends)