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Volker Schlöndorff

Volker Schlöndorff

Though he would find himself at the forefront of his native nation’s radical New German Cinema movement, Volker Schlöndorff got his training in France. Apprenticed to such trailblazers as Alain Resnais (Schlöndorff served as second assistant director on Last Year at Marienbad), Jean-Pierre Melville (assistant director on Leon Morin, Priest and Le doulos), Louis Malle (assistant director on The Fire Within), he became fascinated by the possibilities of filmmaking as a political tool early in his career. His 1966 debut, Young Törless, based on Robert Musil’s acclaimed novel, was not only the first of his many literary adaptations, it was also something of a New German Cinema call to arms, a political allegory about Germany’s social history set in a boys’ boarding school at the turn of twentieth century. More stinging commentaries on the state of Germany-then-and-now followed in the seventies: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (codirected with Margarethe von Trotta, Schlöndorff’s wife at the time), Coup de grâce, and his grandest success, the Oscar- and Palme d’or–winning The Tin Drum, a brilliant adaptation of Günter Grass’s metaphorical novel about the horrors of World War II. Schlöndorff has gone on to teach film and literature and continues to make films in Germany and elsewhere.