Veronika Voss


1h 45m 1982
Veronika Voss

Brief Synopsis

Voss is the second installment in Fassbinder's history of Germany. Morphine addicted movie queen Veronika Voss is modeled on Sybille Schmitz, an actress who killed herself in 1953, partly due to negative fallout from her star turns during the Third Reich.

Film Details

Also Known As
Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss, Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss, secret de Veronika Voss
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Foreign
Release Date
1982
Production Company
Rialto Films
Distribution Company
MGM Home Entertainment
Location
West Germany

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m

Synopsis

Voss is the second instalment in Fassbinder's history of Germany. Morphine addicted move queen Veronika Voss is modelled on Sybille Schmitz, an actress who killed herself in 1953, partly due to negative fallout from her star turns during the Third Reich.

Videos

Movie Clip

Veronika Voss (1982) - The Mother Of The Floozy Munich, 1955, we’ve just met psychiatrist Katz (Annemarie Düringer), who’s diverted a reporter trying to recover 300-marks from the one-time film star title character (Rosel Zech) whom, we learn, appears to be her captive, who then visits an old producer friend (Peter Berling), in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Veronika Voss, 1982.
Veronika Voss (1982) - Things That Were Never Heard In 1955 Munich, a persistent phone caller awakens newspaper sports reporter Robert (Hilmar Thate) and his girlfriend (Cornelia Froboess), and we learn it was the faded film star he rescued from the rain the day before, in director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s black and white Veronika Voss, 1982.
Veronika Voss (1982) - They Don't Wish To Be Found After his strange second encounter with the title character, a past-her-prime film star with Nazi entanglements, sports reporter Robert (Hiilmar Thate) consults with a colleague (Elisabeth Volkmann) then meets an older couple (pre-WWII German film stars Johanna Hofer and Rudolf Platte) at her supposed address, in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Veronika Voss, 1982.
Veronika Voss (1982) - Insidious Poison Ambitious and arresting, opening the chronological second but the last to be shot, of director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s famous BRD Trilogy, Rosel Zech the movie star title character, Volker Spengler her director, Armin Mueller-Stahl her writer, and Hilmar Thate with the umbrella, from Veronika Voss, 1982, Fassbinder himself seated with the star in the cinema.

Film Details

Also Known As
Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss, Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss, secret de Veronika Voss
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Foreign
Release Date
1982
Production Company
Rialto Films
Distribution Company
MGM Home Entertainment
Location
West Germany

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m

Articles

Veronika Voss


Veronika Voss is the second entry in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's BRD (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) trilogy: three female-centered melodramas set during West Germany's post-WWII "economic miracle". Though it was the last to be shot, Veronika Voss takes place chronologically after The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978) but before Lola (1981). It was based on the life of Sybille Schmitz, a star of Nazi cinema favored by Joseph Goebbels who disappeared from view until committing suicide in 1955. Fassbinder, along with his BRD trilogy writing partners Pea Fröhlich and Peter Märthesheimer, reconfigured her story with a framing device out of Sunset Boulevard (1950), pairing a younger journalist with the re-named Veronika to lead viewers into the void of her absence. Shot in piercing B&W by Xaver Schwarzenberger, Veronika Voss is a refractive chamber of film and historical references that leaps from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to Hitler.

According to Michael Töteberg's production history on the Criterion Collection site, the project was first sketched out in May of 1981, when it was originally to be titled Sybille Schmitz. Schmitz was one of his favorite actresses (she was one of the Vampyr's, 1932 victims), and he had intended to cast her in The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) before he learned of her passing decades before. Schmitz had died under mysterious circumstances, and her physician, Dr. Ursula Moritz, was charged "with continued offense against the drug law with intent to gain illegal financial advantage." Basically she was suspected of drugging up her customers in order to bleed them of cash. She was sent to prison for four months on minor charges and never brought to justice for the three patients who had died under her care.

Veronika Voss fictionalizes her life and elaborates on the unknown relationship between Schmitz and her doctor. Rosel Zech plays Voss with the imperious cluelessness of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard; she is a woman out of time, living off borrowed glamor. But she still shines enough to catch the eye of Robert Krohn (Hilmar Thate), a rumpled sportswriter who stumbles upon her at a screening of one of her old Nazi-era features. He hands her an umbrella, as Edward G. Robinson does to Joan Bennett in Scarlet Street (1945), followed by a nighttime tram ride reminiscent of Murnau's Sunrise (1927). She is a transcendent figure, backlit to stand out from her surroundings unlike the cowered passengers who sit near the front of the train. Krohn, despite having a long-time girlfriend, is entranced by Voss, by both her beauty and her irreparable sadness.

So he investigates her situation and discovers she is a live-in patient of Dr. Marianne Katz (Annemarie Düringer), who lives in a blindingly white apartment that doubles as an office. Thomas Elsaesser, in Fassbinder's Germany, memorably describes the cinematography: "Never before has white seemed so menacing, so evil as in the apartment of Dr. Katz, and in the room that will become both prison and grave to Veronika. Not a film noir, then, but a film blanc."

Krohn's obsession eventually ropes in his conflicted girlfriend Henriette (Cornelia Froboess), who fears losing her boyfriend but is also implacably pulled in by Voss' tractor-beam eyes. They both, at times, seem to be under hypnosis. Film historian Yann Lardeau, according to Elsaesser, "sees in Veronika the echo and reinterpretation of an essential motif of expressionist cinema, from the Student of Prague who sold his shadow, to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with Veronika the Cesare to Dr. Katz' Caligari."

There are so many layers and allusions in Veronika Voss that it's easy to go down the rabbit hole of interpretation, but so much of its appeal is right on the surface. Schwarzenberger's cinematography pulls off the remarkable feat of depicting decaying glamor. In a remarkable shot on a movie set, he packs the frame with miniature star lights that are so bright they start obscuring the actors, creating a thickness to the image that pushes Veronika into the periphery. She is no longer the star of her own life, getting pushed further into addiction until she chooses oblivion over Krohn's savior act.

The structuring absence is Hitler and Veronika's collusion with the Nazi regime. One of Krohn's co-workers mentions that Veronika was a pet project of Goebbels but was eventually discarded from favor. West Germany's "economic miracle" could only take place alongside a turning away from its horrific recent past. Fassbinder said that, "If a thing of so much significance could be forgotten or repressed, then something must be pretty wrong with this democracy and this 'German model.'" Veronika Voss was the model German, now the victim of a society's vast forgetting.

By R. Emmet Sweeney
Veronika Voss

Veronika Voss

Veronika Voss is the second entry in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's BRD (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) trilogy: three female-centered melodramas set during West Germany's post-WWII "economic miracle". Though it was the last to be shot, Veronika Voss takes place chronologically after The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978) but before Lola (1981). It was based on the life of Sybille Schmitz, a star of Nazi cinema favored by Joseph Goebbels who disappeared from view until committing suicide in 1955. Fassbinder, along with his BRD trilogy writing partners Pea Fröhlich and Peter Märthesheimer, reconfigured her story with a framing device out of Sunset Boulevard (1950), pairing a younger journalist with the re-named Veronika to lead viewers into the void of her absence. Shot in piercing B&W by Xaver Schwarzenberger, Veronika Voss is a refractive chamber of film and historical references that leaps from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to Hitler. According to Michael Töteberg's production history on the Criterion Collection site, the project was first sketched out in May of 1981, when it was originally to be titled Sybille Schmitz. Schmitz was one of his favorite actresses (she was one of the Vampyr's, 1932 victims), and he had intended to cast her in The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) before he learned of her passing decades before. Schmitz had died under mysterious circumstances, and her physician, Dr. Ursula Moritz, was charged "with continued offense against the drug law with intent to gain illegal financial advantage." Basically she was suspected of drugging up her customers in order to bleed them of cash. She was sent to prison for four months on minor charges and never brought to justice for the three patients who had died under her care. Veronika Voss fictionalizes her life and elaborates on the unknown relationship between Schmitz and her doctor. Rosel Zech plays Voss with the imperious cluelessness of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard; she is a woman out of time, living off borrowed glamor. But she still shines enough to catch the eye of Robert Krohn (Hilmar Thate), a rumpled sportswriter who stumbles upon her at a screening of one of her old Nazi-era features. He hands her an umbrella, as Edward G. Robinson does to Joan Bennett in Scarlet Street (1945), followed by a nighttime tram ride reminiscent of Murnau's Sunrise (1927). She is a transcendent figure, backlit to stand out from her surroundings unlike the cowered passengers who sit near the front of the train. Krohn, despite having a long-time girlfriend, is entranced by Voss, by both her beauty and her irreparable sadness. So he investigates her situation and discovers she is a live-in patient of Dr. Marianne Katz (Annemarie Düringer), who lives in a blindingly white apartment that doubles as an office. Thomas Elsaesser, in Fassbinder's Germany, memorably describes the cinematography: "Never before has white seemed so menacing, so evil as in the apartment of Dr. Katz, and in the room that will become both prison and grave to Veronika. Not a film noir, then, but a film blanc." Krohn's obsession eventually ropes in his conflicted girlfriend Henriette (Cornelia Froboess), who fears losing her boyfriend but is also implacably pulled in by Voss' tractor-beam eyes. They both, at times, seem to be under hypnosis. Film historian Yann Lardeau, according to Elsaesser, "sees in Veronika the echo and reinterpretation of an essential motif of expressionist cinema, from the Student of Prague who sold his shadow, to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with Veronika the Cesare to Dr. Katz' Caligari." There are so many layers and allusions in Veronika Voss that it's easy to go down the rabbit hole of interpretation, but so much of its appeal is right on the surface. Schwarzenberger's cinematography pulls off the remarkable feat of depicting decaying glamor. In a remarkable shot on a movie set, he packs the frame with miniature star lights that are so bright they start obscuring the actors, creating a thickness to the image that pushes Veronika into the periphery. She is no longer the star of her own life, getting pushed further into addiction until she chooses oblivion over Krohn's savior act. The structuring absence is Hitler and Veronika's collusion with the Nazi regime. One of Krohn's co-workers mentions that Veronika was a pet project of Goebbels but was eventually discarded from favor. West Germany's "economic miracle" could only take place alongside a turning away from its horrific recent past. Fassbinder said that, "If a thing of so much significance could be forgotten or repressed, then something must be pretty wrong with this democracy and this 'German model.'" Veronika Voss was the model German, now the victim of a society's vast forgetting. By R. Emmet Sweeney

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States on Video September 1991

Released in United States 1982

Released in United States February 18, 1982

Released in United States 1997

Shown at New York Film Festival September-October 1982.

Shown at Berlin Film Festival February 18, 1982.

Re-released in United States March 16, 1989 (New York City)

Released in United States on Video September 1991

Released in United States 1982 (Shown at New York Film Festival September-October 1982.)

Released in United States February 18, 1982 (Shown at Berlin Film Festival February 18, 1982.)

Released in United States 1997 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reade) as part of Rainer Werner Fassbinder and his Friends May 9 - June 5, 1997.)

Re-released in United States March 16, 1989