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Worth A Look: 40%
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Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Legend of Rita, The
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by Greg Muskewitz

"The legend of Bibiana Beglau"
5 stars

On its own, "The Legend of Rita" is a decent, recommendable film, but it is further carried by one remarkable performance that pulls it further and greater beyond. The idea of political activism and revolt is not an uncommon one, especially in those surfacing from other countries. In this case it's Germany, still divided East and West, and spotty director Volker Schlondorff treats the story as pulp fiction overriding the more realistic, though unneeded verism --for the most part.

One thing the press kit helpfully points out that would have been just as useful in the film, was that "legend" is a connotation for "false identity" used by the Stasi/East German secret police. During those somewhat turbulent days in the 1970s, of rebellious fighting and staging against the government, Rita Vogt (Bibiana Beglau) is in with an energetic, idealistic group, and she's in love with the mastermind. But as times change, and their fugitive status is continually upped in priority, it forces them to seek refuge with the GDR --the secret police. In exchange for some tipoffs by Rita, they temporarily hide and cover for them.

Yet still the group, pretty much consisting of four major members, two representatives for both sexes, they face an internecine. Rita and the neophyte of the group Friederike (Jenny Schily) decide to be protected by the GDR and allow them to create legends --or new identities-- for them and function as normal people within the society. The others in the group opt to continue their political terrorism, while Rita, separated from Friederike, is working in East Germany and building a slightly more-than-friendly relationship with a divorced alcoholic, Tatjana (Nadja Uhl). The former activists' coup d'etat ends abruptly, and in the process, Rita's cover is blown, so she must be removed and placed again with a new legend.

Writer Wolfgang Kohlhaase (collaborating with Schlondorff) notes that although Rita was a fictional character, such actions and times were all drawn from the events of that period. And the government's involvement with these recalcitrants and what we learn of that, is in itself quite intriguing though I'm sure a bit gilded --but regardless, it is a truthful-inspired piece of fiction. It reminded me a lot of a "The Fugitive"-type comic book or graphic novel, following the chameleonic identities, bringing about new characters and old at the most opportune times and using them most advantageously. "The Legend of Rita" has its share of action and suspense: several exciting and tense motorcycle chases, a bank robbery, the jail bust, etc. None of these elements are repetitiously used, if anything, it might have been more interesting to give her more fake aliases, though in that case it would have been syllogistic, moving from the close tie in reality into a more fictional, less meaningful tale.

Bibiana Beglau, in a word, is outstanding. She's an actress of grand-scale talent in a most accessible light. Her anonymity as an actress to me makes her easier to invest belief into her performance of Rita, yet still see her dexterity of losing herself into her inner-cum-outer creation. A beauty to admire, no single factor or feature is salient or singled out with Beglau, instead leading it to be a natural combination of all aspects. Schlondorff harnesses and uses her strength to penetrate "The Legend of Rita" to a very full and positive position. He similarly does the same with Nadja Uhl, who has the positive zaftig and physique a realistic and sensible woman would want. Uhl is another talent well-worth investing in.

Possibly the reason for Schlondorff's wonderful handling of the material, is because as I suspect, it has a more personal bearing than, say, "Palmetto" or the TV-movie "Murder on the Bayou," or even "The Ogre." Despite what connections he may have had with the latter was not conveyed in the actual movie. But when Schlondorff appears to be enthused or enticed with a flourishing idea --like this, or 1979's "The Tin Drum"-- it really carries over into the film and his tactics of storytelling. I don't think that's something too overwhelming to ask for in a filmmaker, a vehemence and enthusiasm about what they want to tell. With "The Legend of Rita," and especially because of Beglau's performance, it creates a legend/identity all for itself.

With Martin Wuttke, Harald Schrott and Alexander Beyer.


On a sidebar, I wanted to point out two minor observations I made. The first was nothing more than a simple gaffe, whereby Rita, glaring outside through an open door, the glass pane centered on the door reflects the film crew standing behind. The second thing was one of the clubs Rita was at, Club Kino, which bears the same name as the distribution company, Kino, who is responsible for distributing this. Was it a devious attempt at "studio-plugging" or nothing more than a coincidental happenstance?

Final Verdict: B+.

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originally posted: 04/14/01 10:38:55
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User Comments

6/14/04 Jairo Viafara Serious and compelling of one of the most dramatic times in German history. 5 stars
12/31/01 Marion Delgado Riveting performance. Excellent job. 5 stars
6/13/01 John Woodward Incredible Film! Schloendorff's best! 5 stars
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