The Legend of Rita

1 h 37 min200113+
The riveting true story of Rita Vogt, a 1970s West German terrorist who escapes to the East with the help of the Stasi. She lives in constant fear of having her cover blown, until it unavoidably happens after the German re-unification.
Volker Schlöndorff
Bibiana BeglauMartin WuttkeNadja Uhl
English [CC]
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Supporting actors
Harald Schrott
ARTE / Babelsberg Film
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4.6 out of 5 stars

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septimusReviewed in the United States on April 21, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great to see this again after 20 years
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Volker Schlondorff has made more than his share of political films. What sets _The Legend of Rita_ apart is the surprisingly upbeat protagonist, a callow ex-terrorist who grows up and perseveres through her extended exile in the GDR. There are very few happy people in the Schlondorff cinematic universe! Biblana Beglau is very good but so are her costars Nadja Uhl and Jenny Schily. This is one of my favorite Schlondorff films, alongside _Coup de Grace_ and _Homo Faber_, adapted from Max Frisch's novel. Still haven't caught up with _Return with Montauk_, which is a tribute to Frisch.
One person found this helpful
Spontaneous oneReviewed in the United States on June 3, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Ah nostalgia for those days !!
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Thank goodness Hollywood left this story alone. Ruined of course by interrupting facile advertisements but that's today ........Excellent movie though.
Beth FoxReviewed in the United States on February 16, 2005
4.0 out of 5 stars
Fascinating Portrayal Of A German Terrorist
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The Legend of Rita is generally an excellent film. Rita Vogt belongs to a small faction of terrorists who rob banks and commit other crimes "to support the revolution" in 1970s West Germany. From the get-go, the movie is fast-paced and exciting, with robberies and fights among the terrorists highlighted by quick scene changes. Rita, fleeing from the West German police, ultimately takes refuge in East Germany and is then given "legends," i.e., identities, to disguise her presence in that country. Although the character is completely fictional, Rita appears to resemble, both physically and otherwise, the Red Army Faction member Susanne Albrecht, who was given asylum and a new identity in East Germany (although Albrecht did not participate in a jailbreak.) Rita idolizes East Germany and is pleased to live in a "true socialist state" - a position that becomes untenable after the wall falls in 1989. The film strikes a note of truth as it contrasts East Germany as seen through Rita's rose-colored glasses and the country as it is seen by its own citizens. Rita's faith in, and enthusiasm for, socialism blinds her to the dreariness of East German life, which drives other characters in the film to drink.

Having said that, this portrayal of an RAF (although that group is not named) terrorist is far too sanitized. In the liner notes, the director refers to the real RAF as "so-called" terrorists. In the film, we are shown the apparently accidental murder of an attorney mid-jailbreak, and the murder of a policeman who is trying to catch Rita. Both of these murders can be rationalized (for those who wish to rationalize them) as crazed attempts to prevent arrest or continued imprisonment. In reality, the RAF deliberately, and with malice aforethought, murdered innocent people. Susanne Albrecht, for example, deliberately lured Jurgen Ponto, chairman of Dresdner Bank and Albrecht's godfather, to his death. An RAF faction killed Heinz Hillegart, the German economic attache to Sweden, and hung his corpse out the window. They kidnapped Peter Lorenz, the Christian Democrat candidate for mayor of West Berlin. The RAF joined other terrorists in the hijacking of an Air France jetliner to Entebbe. They separated the Jews from all the other passengers and threatened to kill them -- and would have, had an Israeli force led by Jonathan Netanyahu not rescued the hostages. In short, this was a bad, bad, bad gang, and - if indeed Schlondorff was portraying the RAF - it does no good to sugar-coat them.

While the film shows the Stasi helping the terrorists -- which did indeed happen -- it shows the Stasi men to be far too genial for my taste. The Stasi are portrayed simply as enthusiasts, who romanticize the revolutionary spirit of the terrorists and try to live vicariously through their exploits. In fact, as demonstrated elsewhere, the relationship between the Stasi and various terrorist groups was symbiotic: it was part of East German policy, determined at the highest level of the Politburo and with the encouragement of the Soviet Union, to arm and train them.

Despite these flaws, I highly recommend the film. It provides a very realistic portrayal of East Germany, right down to the prefabricated houses and the workplace collections for worldwide revolutionary movements. The spy agency's "Comrade General" is shown hunting, which was a favorite activity of Stasi commander Erich Mielke. Moreover, Bibliana Beglau is a terrific actress, and her portrayal of Rita is convincing. We are never completely sure why Rita joined the gang -- was it really love, or did her obvious sympathies lead her over the edge? Finally, the film raises some important issues about youthful mistakes from the perspective of middle age. Overall, the film is well worth watching.
15 people found this helpful
Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United States on November 1, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
Five Stars
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I am happy with thisnorder.
Shahrokh HaghighiReviewed in the United States on November 20, 2010
3.0 out of 5 stars
Very good
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I think among all the movies made about the underground leftist political groups in the 70's, this is probably the best. It is well balanced and unlike most of the movies in this genre (some of which were made by famous directors such as Bertolucci and Frankenheimer), it is not one-sided, journalistic, and ideological. Without romanticizing this kind of political idealism, the movie is sympethatic to the main characters and shows the tragedic consequences of their actions, despite their good intentions. I strongly recommend this to anyone interested in movies about leftist "terrorism" in the 60's and 70's.
3 people found this helpful
technoguyReviewed in the United States on May 7, 2010
5.0 out of 5 stars
Anti-capitalist revolutionary
Having seen Schlorndorf's Tin Drum and his The Lost Honour of Katherine Blum I got hold of this film,The Legend of Rita,curious to know what he'd made of a subject loosely based on the real Baader-Meinhoff gang.I preferred this low key approach to the subject,almost an interesting foot-note to the people depicted in The Baader-Meinhoff Complex,which though absorbing, covered too many real events,histories of members of the gang,and too much time,to ultimately satisfy me.This film,set in the later years of the cold war, tells the story of a group member who goes into hiding in East Germany during the 1980s.The movie is a fictionalized composite of many characters and incidents;it never refers to the group as the "Baader-Meinhoff Gang" or the "Red Army Faction"-it is a highly accurate account of the types of people and the incidents of the era.The screenwriter had interviewed real terrorists in jail.They fight against capitalism for the third world causes.

Rita(Bibiana Beglau) starts her journey as a member of a bank-robbing, terrorist group,whose antics are based on naïve idealism,a desire to overthrow the state.The Rolling Stones'`Street Fighting Man' sets the tone,wall charts of Che,books by Mao and Lenin in a room.After a series of complications,involving breaking a group leader out of prison,followed by life on the run in Germany and France,the anti-capitalist revolutionaries are forced to disband.Rita( and other members) takes refuge in East Germany,under a false identity,the `legend' of the title,whereby she is given a fabricated name and identity and placed in a job,to live an anonymous life in that country's grand socialist experiment.Working in a fabric dyeing plant,Rita is treated with contempt and derision by many of her new co-workers,who cannot believe she so blindly supports the East German state.She is drawn to Tatjana(Nadja Uhl),an alcoholic,who finds her like an alien from space,who wants to settle into normal life just as she wants to get out.They are both rebels, wanting to escape their country of birth.Rita discovers tenderness through love.When a co-worker realizes that she is a former terrorist,Rita is moved to another job in another city.She has to escape further into active life,do social work in a large company,supported by the Stasi agent Hull.At a summer resort she meets a young physicist,who seeing just a carefree woman, asks her to marry him.However she's not really an East German,she's living under cover,she's not free.Rita is happy in E.Germany, despite its drabness and lack of consumer goods,because people are neither rich nor poor.

At the moment her life seems to be coming together,East Germany is falling apart.Rita again goes on the run from West German authorities, with the fall of the Berlin Wall.She is killed as she runs a roadblock.Her devotion to the distant ideal of socialism never changes.This is a fictional exploration of character based on very real people ,often involved in killing people.However,it works in terms of seeing through Rita's eyes, of a worker's socialist state as a form of liberation, for someone who had burned their bridges with western consumerism and a lack of contact with the working classes.East Germany did take into hiding 11 former RAF members.Stasi officials even provided training to several of the members who returned to West Germany to carry out more terrorist attacks. The film appears to capture life in East Germany quite accurately.There is a stunning lead performance by Bibiana Beglau,from a dramatic background.The film benefits from using young,unknown faces in these roles.This is a good film ,superbly directed by Schlorndorff,exploring the emotional dilemmas posed by commitment to a cause. Schlorndroff's commentary track on the DVD is first rate for historical background and a booklet provides a great discussion between screenwriter Kholhasse,and the director.
4 people found this helpful
Keith W. HarveyReviewed in the United States on May 20, 2008
5.0 out of 5 stars
The Quiet before the Shot
I liked this movie. Not because of its politics or its prettified version of East Germany (as seen through Rita's eyes). I liked it for an old-fashioned, somewhat pedestrian reason: it is beautifully shot and directed with a pleasing, articulate (but flawed) heroine. Bibiana Beglau, who plays Rita, is radiant on the screen, full of energy, excited by life, and passionate about her Utopian ideas that ultimately do not fit within the confines of the GDR or the west.

Schlondorff tells the story of an idealist in a world bereft of ideals. We see the world through Rita Vogt's eyes for the most part but from time to time, if we pay attention, we see the real world playing out in the background: Stasi agents who cannot shoot straight, alcoholic co-workers, disillusioned comrades, and dissatisfied members of the GDR.

Rita believes in something greater; her life is more or less a fantasy. In the end, there is "no exit." However, even at that moment, before the final shot she is excited and hopeful. Throughout the film, the director shows us a woman full of energy, always moving, competent and passionate in her work and her ideals pitted against a mechanical society--either east or west--determined to destroy her.
One person found this helpful
Rotty3MReviewed in the United States on March 20, 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars
Not much Germany during the Terrorism years
First, I need to correct the editor's information. The terrorism of this group at the beginning of the film is NOT in the early 1990s, but in the late 1970s. Rita and her group are operating in the late 1970s as a terrorist cell (similar to RAF, June 2 and Bader-Meinhoff Gang). The film then leads up to the time when the "wall" falls in Berlin (02 October 1989) and the fate of Rita who decided not to leave the GDR when offered the chance to go to Beirut (in the early 1980s).
This film deals mostly with the East German government's reaction to West German terrorists. Another excellent film (though not available on is "Lost Honor of Katherina Blum" (also directed by Schloendorff).
Subtitles in the VHS version are not always accurate, but close enough. This review refers to the VHS edition.
13 people found this helpful
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