The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum
When Katharina Blum spends the night with an alleged terrorist, her quiet, ordered life falls into ruins. Suddenly a suspect, Katharina is subject to a vicious smear campaign by the police and a ruthless tabloid journalist, testing the limits of her dignity and her sanity. Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta’s powerful adaptation of Heinrich Böll’s novel is a stinging commentary on state power, individual freedom, and media manipulation––as relevant today as on the day of its release in 1975.
Criterion’s original DVD edition for Volker Schlöndorff’s and Margarethe von Trotta’s The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum presents the film in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on this dual-layer disc. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions. The digital transfer comes from a 35mm interpositive.
I’ve always been fairly impressed with this digital presentation and looking back on it now it has still held up reasonably well. There are a handful of moments where heavy damage pops up, and small marks are scattered about, but on average the image is very clean. Colours look bright and are well saturated, and fine-object detail looks good. The film has a grainy look, and this can come off a little noisy, but it’s managed well on average.
The German Dolby Digital 1.0 mono presentation hold up reasonably well itself. Dialogue sounds clear, music is good, and there is no harmful damage present.
Criterion starts things off with a 29-minute interview featuring Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta. It’s one of the staler conversations about a film between two directors I can recall, but they do talk about the political climate in Germany at the time, how that led to Boll’s novel (on which the film is based), and then how they came to make the film. They then talk about the production, its release, and so forth. Interestingly, von Trotta was initially involved because she was to play the lead character. Director of photography Jost Vacano speaks for 16-minutes about the film’s look, explaining how he tried to capture a look of realism. He also talks about how lighting can also vary on the actors, as some actors can bring forth the desired look and effect without too much lighting, like Jurgen Prochnow (and then others need all the help they can get).
Criterion then includes around 33-minutes’ worth of excerpts from a 1977 documentary on author Heinrich Böll. The excerpts taken (which include interviews with the author) revolve around the events that would lead Böll to write The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, which really started after he wrote an article around the Baader-Meinhof group and the response to the crackdown on them (he was basically pointing out that members of the group had rights public and police were over-reacting). This led to him being accused of being a terrorist sympathizer and was constantly harassed by police, which of course all played into the book. If the film angered you these excerpts will probably do the same. From the menu for this item Criterion also includes some text notes offering a general bio for Böll.
The disc then closes with the film’s theatrical trailer, and an insert features a short essay written by Amy Taubin about the film.
Not a lot but the features still manage to do a wonderful job contextualizing the film.
The DVD still holds up rather well all these years later.