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Margarethe von Trotta

Vision – Aus dem Leben der Hildegard von Bingen * Margarethe von Trotta (2009)

About a year ago we were in Bingen, Germany and of course we visited the local museum with its Hildegard von Bingen exposition. Now there is a film about the life of Hildegard. “Vision” is a rather dull film showing fragments of Hildegard’s life. As a child, Hildegard was admitted to a mixed monastry, in the next fragment she is elected abbess. From an early age, Hilegard had visions, but it takes a long time before she tells monk Volmar, one of the few persons she trusts. Volmar persuades Hildegard to seek recognition for her gift, a request that is agreed upon for worldly reasons only (more pilgrims and more donations that would come with the fame of the cloister). As the years pass, Hildegard develops ideas of her own on varries points and she collides with her abbot, especially when she wants a cloister of her own. Gaining the attention of Berhard of Clairvaux (a mystic himself), the bishop of Mainz and the wealthy mother of her favourite nun Richardis, Hildegard can proceed with her plans. Also she can spend 10 years working on her book with visions.
“Vision” is a fragmented biography of an interesting person. Hildegard is portrayed as a modern woman with broad interests in medicine, philosophy and the like, we hear a few fragments of her visions. Also Hildegard is shown as not completely devoid of earthly emotion. As a film, “Vision” is not very exciting, as a lesson in history, it is alright.

Die Bleierne Zeit * Margarethe von Trotta (1981)

My girlfriends colleagues pulled this DVD out of some arthouse section of a local DVD shop for her birthday, most likely having no idea what the film is about. Funny enough it is about the Rote Armee Fraktion, just like “Der Baader Meinhof Komplex” that recently premiered. That is to say: according to the box of “Time Of Lead”, it is about Gudrun Ensslin “one of the key figures of the Baader Meinhof group”, but when I would not have read the box, but only watched the film, I would not have known that.

“Die Bleierne Zeit” “fictionalized” the events and follows Juliane, an idealistic woman and journalist who appears to have feminist and far leftish ideas. Her apparently quiet life is every now and then interrupted by a woman called Marianne (her character is based on Gudrun Ensslin), a woman that proves to be radical, selfish woman without taking much notion of Juliane having different ideas than herself. Juliane and Marianne turn out to be sisters and the film shows a lot of scenes that are flashbacks, but this is not always clear. Marianne is radical enough to land in jail for having had something to do with bombs. However the film shows how both Juliane and Marianne were in their early days pushed to the far left of the political spectrum, the film does not show what their ideas exactly are, what the revolution stands for that Marianne fights in, not even what it is exactly that she did that put her in jail. The film had its premiere only four years after a tragic event that is also in this film and which might or might not have spelled the end of the Baader Meinhof group. This leads me to the idea that when the film was made and shown, it was for the audience that knew all about the Rote Armee Fraktion, its actions and its ideology and that the film shows the story behind some of the RAF’s members without having to give information about the RAF itself. As for an unknowing viewer 27 years later, I see a film which tells a story, but leaves out all the essential information. I cannot place the film in any perspective and therefor it is just a drama about two women with a strong bond and similar ideas but very opposital in the implementation of them. “Die Bleierne Zeit” is not a boring watch, but people from outside Germany and/or not having read the newspapers of the time will need something to place the story in. Perhaps the film “Der Baader Meinhof Komplex” is such a film and when you saw that one, “Die Bleierne Zeit” will work better.