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The Legend of Rita

Director:Volker Schondorff
Writers:Volker Schondorff, Wolfgang Kohlhaase
Kino International; NR; 101 minutes
Release:2/01
Cast:Bibiana Beglau, Martin Wuttke, Nadja Uhl

The Legend of Rita does what no mainstream media dare: it examines left-wing radicalism in a serious light. The fictional German film finds historical basis in the 1970s Red Army Faction. Ideology wasn't sufficient; the RAF revolutionaries took their beliefs to the street. The radicals bombed, kidnapped, and robbed banks as protest against capitalism.

Longtime director Volker Schondorff (The Handmaid's Tale, The Tin Drum) co-wrote the screenplay along with Wolfgang Kohlhaase. They convert the Red Army Faction into a complex character study. This allows for a rigorous and balanced consideration of political possibility and warring ideologies that provoke thought rather than preach. A botched bank robbery forces charismatic young terrorist Rita (Bibiana Beglau) and her colleagues into hiding. Rita eventually heads for East Germany, where she begins afresh as a cog in socialist machinery. Surprisingly enough, fewer class divisions compensate for a lower standard of living, and the committed rebel lives happily—she has a gift for creating community—until the collapse of the Berlin Wall sparks confrontation between Rita, her former partners-in-sabotage, and the East Germans all-too-eager to accept capitalism's embrace.

Beglau's deep, naturalistic performance compliments Volker Schondorff's historical and political drama winningly. By taking the subject of political extremism down to warm people and conflictive but serious ideas, he explores an area of the past usually off-limits. The Legend of Rita is Schondorff's most engaging work in years.


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