The Legend of Rita (Die Stille nach dem Schuß) (2000)

In the jargon of East Germany’s Stasi police (the secret police), a “legend” was a false identity, created for people who needed to “disappear” into society. During the Cold War, apparently East Germany sheltered Western terrorists, protecting them from prosecution, only to crack down and arrest them themselves when the Berlin Wall fell.
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Genre(s): Drama, History, Romance

Director: Volker Schlöndorff

Actors: Bibiana Beglau, Nadja Uhl, Martin Wuttke, Harald Schrott, Mario Irrek, Alexander Beyer, Jenny Schily

Year: 2000

MPAA Rating: NR

Country: Germany

The Legend of Rita is a fictionalized story of one such terrorist, a woman named Rita Vogt (Bibiana Beglau) who in the early 1970s robs banks with her boyfriend Andi (Harald Schrott) and their young hipster comrades in the name of reclaiming the money for “the people”. These “revolutionaries” seem like a group of college students, excited and enflamed by politics for the first time, except they go a step further and actually kill a few people in the way of their Robin-Hood-esque exploits.

Well, killing people, despite your best intentions, is not the best way to get on the good side of the law, so the group ends up seeking the protection of a Stasi officer (Martin Wuttke) who had often helped the comrades on the side. The deal: they can be sheltered in East Germany, but only if they drop their old ways, assume new identities in the working class, and agree to never contact each other again. Tired of always being on the run, and aware that Andi isn’t the ideal boyfriend that she thought he was, Rita takes up the offer.

The Legend of Rita takes a drastic turn then, as Rita is assigned first one identity, then later another, as her life becomes a trip of paranoia and fear that her cover can be blown at any moment. In one of her new “lives” as a factory worker, she gains the friendship and adoration of a young woman Tatjana (Nadja Uhl), who sees a new life and spark in Rita that she has never encountered. In another, she falls in love with a man (Alexander Beyer) who has no idea the secrets she harbors. The timeline of Rita is a little hard to follow at times. Starting in the early 70s, the film concludes in 1989 (when the Wall fell)—but other than these bookends, the passage of the years is a bit vague.

But that is a minor quibble. Bibiana Beglau as Rita is absolutely dynamic and radiant (she shared the  Best Actress award at the Berlin Film Festival with co-star Nadja Uhl). She’s a cross between the strong-willed, fiery spirit of Franka Potente’s Lola from Run Lola Run, and Ally Sheedy’s weathered and wise Lucy in High Art. You can see why everyone she crosses paths with ends up basically falling in love with her, despite the fact that she is obviously hiding something. The Legend of Rita is not only an exciting political thriller, but an extremely fascinating character study of one woman’s quest to stay true to her beliefs, no matter how questionable.


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