Following on from seeing The Legend of Rita and Die Innere Sicherheit, I recently watched an earlier movie which covers similar subject matter, Marianne and Juliane, directed by Margarethe von Trotta, and released in 1981. Its German title was Die Bleierne Zeit.
The film tells the story of two sisters who take different paths in trying to change the world. It is fictionalized, but it is apparently based on the life of Gudrun Ensslin and her family. Marianne pursues a course as a political militant, whilst Juliane works as a journalist/activist. The film focuses on the relationship between the two, and on Juliane's efforts to help and support her incarcerated sibling.
I was going to say that the movie has a bleak and gloomy aesthetic, but on reflection it is based on realism and authenticity. So many films of this type try too hard either to faithfully recreate historical detail or to convey a "mood", and turn out as contrived. Marianne and Juliane is very different, and very natural and unforced.
The acting in the film has rightly been praised, but I must single out Jutta Lampe's superb performance as Juliane. Very measured and very convincing, and those eyes. Barbara Sukowa is also impressive. I don't think she is quite as good here as she would be in her later portrayal of Rosa Luxemberg, but she does manage to evoke some of the harsh, uncompromising but resolute nature of the Marianne character.
Some of the running time is occupied by "flashback" sequences from the sisters' childhood, but they don't necessarily give us straightforward or comfortable answers as to how the two people turned out as adults. The prison sequences are also beautifully and atmospherically captured. The symbolism throughout the story is subtle, almost ambiguous (such as a statue of Bismarck), and in general the moral messages are the same.
Working out Juliane's true motives as things progress is no easy task, and it may be that they are left deliberately hazy. The story does not consciously set before us clearly defined moral choices or boundaries. This is where much of the strength of the picture lies. The view presented of the world is a nuanced one, where there are not two diametrically opposed points of view, but many different "poles", diverse motivations and perspectives.
Marianne and Juliane is a absorbing film, which is also a genuine story.