Dir: Volker Schloendorff. Germany. 1999. 101 mins.
Prod cos: Babelsberg Film Production, Mitteldeautsches Filmkontor, MDR. Int'l sales: Bavaria Film International. Prods: Arthur Hofer, Emmo Lempert. Scr: Wolfgang Kohlhasse, Volker Schlondorff. DoP: Andreas Hofer. Ed: Peter Przygodda. Main cast: Bibiana Beglau, Martin Wuttke, Nadja Uhl, Harald Schrott.
Volker Schloendorff, veteran of the New German Cinema of the seventies, goes back to that period in The Legends of Rita'a time when the terrorist movement in Germany brought together often incompetent young idealists who still managed, like the Baader Meinhof gang, to make headlines round the world. One such figure is the naïve Rita (Bibiana Beglau) who has to go underground in East Germany after a murder and the break-up of her cell.
With the help of an East German agent, she assumes a new identity (or 'legend' in the language of the Stasi) within the rigid confines of the socialist system. With her cover accidentally blown, she has to disappear again. But, years later, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, there is no one to protect her, East or West.
Schloendorff and his writer Wolfgang Kohlhaase paint a convincing picture of the time but the main virtue of what seems a rather old-fashioned looking movie are the moving and sympathetic performances of Bibiana Beglau as Rita and Nadja Uhl as the East German girl who befriends her and wants to escape to the West. The intention of the film is clearly to focus on these individuals' lives, hopelessly ruined by political circumstances beyond their control. Based on fact, The Legends of Rita is a definite advance on The Ogre and Palmetto, Schloendorff's two features in the nineties. But it still has only a small measure of the flair and distinction of such classics as The Tin Drum or The Lost Honour Of Katherina Blum.