He directed a mixed bag in the intervening years, from the Oscar-winning anti-fascist statement of "The Tin Drum" to the diluted nightmare of a right-to-life world in "The Handmaiden's Tale." But Schlondorff has continuing compassion for his nation's tattered left-wing legacy.
"The Legends of Rita" does not condone violence in the service of political ideals, yet understands people who once believed the revolution was imminent. To the soundtrack accompaniment of the Rolling Stones' "Streetfighting Man," Rita Vogt (Bibiana Beglau) and her comrades foster rebellion. She's in love with Andi (Harald Schrott), the manipulative leader of their clandestine group. They all go underground after a jailbreak turns bloody and eventually take refuge in East Germany, which has sympathy for the devil of dialectical materialism while maintaining an official anti-terrorism stance.
With help from Hull (Martin Wuttke), a member of the secret police, Rita becomes Susanne--her first new "legend"--to join the actual working class. At a factory job, she meets the downhearted Tatjana (Nadja Uhl), whose goal is to flee to the West. When her cover is blown, Rita's next assumed identity as Sabine unfolds at a children's summer camp. There, she falls for Jochen (Alexander Beyer), but the past quickly catches up with her when the Berlin Wall crumbles.
Schlondorff has created a magnificent, beautifully-acted portrait of the Cold War's last gasp, as seen through the eyes of a young radical on the run. Starring Bibiana Beglau, Martin Wuttke, Nadja Uhl, Harald Schrott, Alexander Beyer, Jenny Schily, Mario Irrek and Thomas Arnold. Directed by Volker Schlondorff. Written by Wolfgang Kohlhas and Volker Schlondorff. Produced by Arthur Hofer and Emmo Lempert. A Kino release. Drama. German-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 101 min.