1976, Volker Schlondorff, 97 mins.
A story of obsessive love set in the Baltic during 1919.
Few readers will be familiar with this German film but it deserves your attention as a tremendously powerful piece of cinema. Set in 1919 during the fag-end of the Russian Civil War, it portrays a story of obsessive love set against a land in turmoil. Shot in steely monochrome by Igor Luther and designed with impressive authenticity by Jurgen Kiebach, it is distinguished by a combination of radical politics with a strong narrative drive. Margarethe von Trotte is astonishing as Sophie, an aristocrat whose unrequited love for an officer leads inexorably to her own willed destruction as she plays sexual games and, when these fail to satisfy her, becomes a Bolshevik revolutionary. The script and direction are unerring in their psychological accuracy, and the final scene – a tracking shot which sums-up the tragic themes of the film – is sublime.
The best way to get hold of this is on Criterion’s excellent DVD.