Hannelore Elsner’s tour-de-force performance anchors this fascinating study of a flamboyant, larger-than-life character. Hanna is a fading left-wing writer in West Germany. A mass of contradictions, she espouses a strident anti-capitalist stance, yet lives out a luxurious lifestyle of bourgeois comfort: a posh Munich apartment, and regular binges at swank boutiques. When the Berlin Wall comes down, amidst all the euphoria Hanna expresses only despair, since East Germany’s political demise is an obituary for her cherished ideals. Disillusioned, addicted to prescription drugs and facing financial ruin, she sells everything and, clad in a Cleopatra wig and Dior coat, prepares to do battle with the world one more time.
Appearing in nearly every frame, Elsner brings depth and humanity to a difficult character, imbuing Hanna with a romantic beauty and child-like defiance. Shot in stunning black and white, this profound, heartrending drama is all the more astonishing for being based on the life of writer Gisela Elsner (no relation to actress Hannelore), director Oskar Roehler’s mother. Described by Der Spiegel as ‘the greatest portrait of a woman in German filmmaking for years,’ Roehler’s beautifully crafted movie deservedly won the German Film Prize for both ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Actress’.
Germany, 1999.English subtitles.Black and white.Dolby stereo.100 mins.