|ULRIKE MARIE MEINHOF|
documentary, 16 mm, color, 61' - 1994
Prix Europa 1994
Fipa d'argent 1995
Award for the best discovery at the Montreal International Festival of New Cinema and New Media, 1995
International Forum of New Cinema, International Film Festival Berlin 1995
selections : Marseille, Lussas, Florence, Nyon, Belfort, New York, Cinémathèque Française...
This is the story of one of recent history's most intriguing figures: Ulrike Marie Meinhof. In the 1970's, she was the mastermind of Germany's notorious Red Army Faction. Ulrike Meinhof was finally captured in 1972. In 1976 she committed suicide in her prison cell. This film is a journey into the past. Made up of both previously unreleased archive material and the personnal recollections of those who were close to her, Ulrike Marie Meinhof tries to uncover the true story of her radical drift. Ulrike Meinhof was a close friend of the authors's family and Timon Koulmasis was brought up with the her twin daughters.
A landscape of the north : the sea, the moon – red – over the banks of sand when the tide is out. In a lullaby, the good Lord threatens the child not to wake him in the morning. "Der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland". Death is a Master from Germany (Paul Celan). Later: "The one who doesn't resist, dies. If he doesn't die, he'll be buried alive!" Ulrike Marie Meinhof, a close friend of my parents and the mother of my best friend. Memories of my childhood in Germany.
History is written by the victorious. This is a commonplace. But one doesn't have to accept it. In my film Ulrike Marie Meinhof I didn't try to find the truth but, as Rilke put it, "to read through grief and from far away"; I tried to understand.
The least one can say is that this film is a work of truth. It is never complacent. It is a success.
Cahiers du Cinéma - 2/1995
Timon Koulmasis' honesty, his refusal to abuse of his position … is not only a question of principle but of truth: he keeps the distance necessary to define with accuracy a woman everybody pretends to know - the icon of a generation -but nobody really understood, a woman who remained a mystery even to her closest relatives and friends. Ulrike Marie Meinhof is a documentary that tries to understand. It is the exact contrary of a news report that pretends to know.
Frederic Strauss, Cahiers du Cinéma- 1/1995
Ulrike Marie Meinhof oscillates between memory (super 8 family films, testimonies of people close to her) and the social image (tv archive material) the film in fact rejects … Uncovering the wanderings of the terrorist, the director finally exhumes the implacable, uncompromising personality of a woman.
Jacques Mandelbaum, La Tribune Juive 2/ 2/ 1995
Ulrike Marie Meinhof reveals the profound gap between the human being and the superficial image its epoch has reflected. She was neither the bloodthirsty terrorist the media denounced nor the "martyr" certain activists liked to see in her. … Timon Koulmasis throws light in an original way on the generation following the war, the 1968 generation.
Thérèse-Marie Deffontaines, Le Monde 26-27/2/1995
Reconstituting her true face and voice, this documentary restores her dignity.
This film has been one of the great moments of the festival. Ulrike Marie Meinhof, by Timon Koulmasis, shattered and deeply moved the audience. Remembering the simplistic image of violence and fanatism conveyed by the mass media, the spectators discovered, through rare documents and sensitive, intelligent testimonies, a gifted journalist sometimes compared to Rosa Luxembourg, a loving and beloved wife, a thoughtful mother, a theorist of the revolution often doubting and always torn apart.
Le Monde diplomatique, janvier 95
Timon Koulmasis' film is an analysis and a requiem at the same time. It does not only describe Ulrike Meinhof's personality but paints a sensitive portrait of post-war Germany. It shows Ulrike Meinhof as a victim of collective neurosis in a country which had violently repressed its violent past and decided to defend the new order with violence.
Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin, 18/2/1995
Timon Koulmasis' film is shot in color and black and white, and classical music underlies large parts of it : an elegy. It does the person -Ulrike Meinhof- justice. An individual case. No elegy, though, can solve the mystery why there have been so many individual cases then.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 1/3/1995
Today the historical pantheon of the left has gone to ruin. (…) Timon Koulmasis films impartially the biography of a hero in Germany's recent history. He follows Ulrike Meinhof's wandering, from her years in university and her first contacts with pacifist movements as well as the epoch of the newspaper magazine konkret, until the time of the Red Army Faction, her arrest and presumed suicide in prison.
The film is based upon previously unreleased archive material and the testimony of close relatives and friends. Koulmasis, whose parents were intimate friends of Ulrike Meinhof and her husband Klaus Rainer Röhl, insists on his closeness to her family but, assembling images and interviews, he keeps the necessary distance. The film avoids sensationalism and uses the archive material –even the images of the department stores' arson, the prison or Ulrike Meinhof's death- in a very discreet way.
So Ulrike Marie Meinhof is something like an attempt ot show behind the frontpages of the newspapers and their image of the revolutionary martyr, a part of the social history of West Germany after the war.
Frankfurter Rundschau, 18/2/1995
Questions by Christophe Postic for Les Yeux de l'Ouie
How does your film treat the "Otherness" of its character?
This is a philosophical question concerning the image and what it represents, so it is the cinematographic question par excellence. Ulrike Meinhof led a singular life. Its reflections have shone out a long time on the present and later on the collective memory. The masks posterity put on her face have veiled her real identity. There is the mask of the assassin, the terrorist and the idealized one of the victim (of the system, her husband, her comrades in arms Baader and Ensslin, etc.) I had to destroy these masks in order to understand the real life story of Ulrike Meinhof. Only then I would be able to construct the necessarily complex image of the human being she has been before becoming a public figure. With this film, I do not pretend to know. I just try to ask questions with utmost accuracy.
Why did you want to make this film?
When you have been so close to this story – Ulrike Meinhof was an intimate friend of my father's and I grew up with her twin daughters – the point is your responsability in making or not making a film rather than any motivation (psychological, historical or even just your desire as a film director). Because on the one hand this closenes made things easier for witnesses to talk, on the other hand it compelled me morally to find the just distance (on a personal level and on the cinematographic level as well) when I started to question this private and at the same time collective memory. This is quite difficult. After a lot of thinking, it seemed to me that it would be possible, though, and that I had this responsability to do the picture rather than not to do it.
How was this film received, especially in Germany?
My documentary broke the ice and finished with a taboo subject. It was the first time in twenty years that somebody spoke so freely about these oppresive years. Several other films have been made on these subjects since then. For the record: my film caused a scandal at the Berlin International Film Festival 1995. Certain protagonists of this epoch, whatever their political stance, were not ready to see the masks come down, to question certainties that had made them have an easy conscience for all these years. The film has been released in thirty countries since then.