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Margarethe von Trotta • Director

"Film is a way of looking at the world"


- We chatted with the German film maker about her Mikeldi Honorary Award at the 63rd edition of the International Festival of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao

Margarethe von Trotta  • Director
(© Zinebi)

The German actress, scriptwriter and film director Margarethe von Trotta has received the first of the Mikeldi Honorary Awards at the 63rd Edition of the Zinebi - International Festival of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao for a lifetime of movie-making. We spoke to her about her career, her profession, her films, her inspiration and her outlook on film and on the world.

Cineuropa: You were the first female director to win the Golden Lion award in Venice for Marianne and Juliane (1981). The film is about the meaning of ideals and the sacrifices and moral conflicts they involve. How do you look back at the film forty years later?
Margarethe von Trotta
: It has been a long time; forty years. How would I do it today? I don’t know, I suppose differently, of course, because back then I only had the experience of that time and that place. At the funeral of the sister who was a terrorist I met the other sister, and we became friends. She told me the story, and, on reflection, I could see that there would have been room for a film where I presented my vision as a woman, with left-wing politics, and that there I could not only tell that particular story, but also part of German history.

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Over the course of your career you have been an actress, scriptwriter, director… Which of the films you have worked on are particularly special to you?
I have made so many films, for cinema and television. You always have some favourites; Sisters or The Balance of Happiness, Sheer Madness, Rosa Luxemburg or Hannah Arendt [+see also:
interview: Margarethe von Trotta
film profile
may be mine. I like all my films, not because I make them into good films, but because there is a part of my life in every one of them, a specific period or time in my life, my outlook on the world. But you are always fonder of the early ones because they are the ones you put the most of yourself into. For me there are films that reflect more of my view on the world and the story I want to tell, and in others there is more of myself, as if I had channelled myself into the film as I was making it.

Your work is about the feminist battle from the movements of the 1960s. What do you think of that fight in current society? Do you think that there is a feminist view when telling fictional stories?
I was a feminist, of course, but because it was also a part of my life, the place I came from. I grew up with my mother -my father wasn’t around- and from really early on he taught me to be really independent, to fight for my rights and for what I wanted, to fight for my moral independence. Then I realised that I couldn’t be that way, that I was limited by the power of men in society. I joined the student revolutions of the 1970s because it was something that came from inside me, from my own life.

When I started to make films there were practically no female directors to act as a role model. That was when I felt that I had a duty to talk about women. First, because I knew better what it meant to be a woman, but also to shout out to those who didn’t have it in their lives.

For you, where have those revolutionary ideals of the 60s that we see in your films gone now?
I never wanted to make political films -I’m not a political director- so when politics turns up in my film it is because it is also part of my life. It comes naturally, it is not planned. There are political revindications in my films that form part of the story I am telling, my experiences, of what I see in the society around me.

Now, in recent years, there are significant changes afoot. At Cannes, Venice, female directors have received awards, something that would have been unthinkable thirty years ago. This progress is necessary, because women are part of society. Let’s hope that it continues this way. That said, at the same time, in Europe we are seeing how some countries are going back to restricting the rights and freedoms of women, such as in Poland, where abortion is illegal. In our society there is always a risk of progress on one hand and slipping backwards on the other.

What drove you to make films? And now, what drives you to carry on making them?
Since I saw Bergman’s The Seventh Seal at the age of eighteen, I wanted to make films. That film sparked that desire in me. I had to wait quite some time until I could make a living from it, but I’ve had that desire and urge since then. My father was a painter, and I tried to paint, but I had no talent, and perhaps film making was a way of reflecting those pictures that I had inside me. In film, you put part of your life, your interests, your concerns, your outlook on the world. Film is a way of looking at the world.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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