The Legend of Rita
|The Legend of Rita|
German DVD cover
|Directed by||Volker Schlöndorff|
|Produced by||Arthur Hofer
|Written by||Wolfgang Kohlhaase
|Edited by||Peter Przygodda|
Die Stille nach dem Schuß or The Silence after the Shot is a 2000 German film that was released in English as The Legend of Rita (the website IMDB calls this choice of title translation "unfortunate"). It is an account of fictionalised exiled West German radical left Red Army Faction members, though the fictional characters all have close parallels to several real-life RAF members.
After a brief overview of the initial bank robberies of the 2nd of June Movement with the distribution of chocolate kisses as well as a disastrous prison break at the Westberliner Prison, the group flees, via the Friedrichstraße train station, into the German Democratic Republic.
Notably, the film is shot with a decidedly 1970s-style color scheme, rather than with simply 1970s furniture and effects as most such movies do; this provides an interesting "throwback" visual experience for the viewer considering the movie was indeed made in the 21st century. And although the movie mainly centers around the trials and tribulations of a leftist-activist woman known as Rita Vogt, many motifs in the script reflect Inge Viett's real life, who really did flee to East Germany along with some others, and really did get a new identity to live under.
After fleeing West Germany following a prison break which involved the fatal shooting of a correctional officer, the desperate and fast-moving fugitive RAF members speed across the border as fast as they can and get an offer from the East Germany state security officer, Erwin Hull, to remain in the GDR. The Stasi is shown to be somewhat reluctant to take in Marxist-Leninists who espouse a more militant and individualistic communist politics than the republic's own Soviet-inspired ideology, but ultimately the GDR officials apparently consider it more important to keep fellow travelers safe than to prosecute them for vigilantism and murder.
The Stasi leaders thus soon offer to create new identities for Vogt and the rest (it is pointed out to them by the authorities that "you have to break laws; we can make them") so that they can start a new life in the East. The two women, Friederike Adebach (inspired by Susanne Albrecht) and Rita Vogl, accept the offer, but the men refuse on the grounds of not wanting to retire their battle against the imperialist system with armed force; later, the men are seen being killed during their next attack. Hull's relationship with Rita, as a mix of case officer, friend, and adviser, meanwhile occupies a large place in the film, even as his caring for Rita is, and remains, purely platonic.
The film then proceeds to detail Rita's new life, for which she is coached in a fictitious "legend", or backstory, that becomes her new "truth"; assumedly this is where the English translation "The Legend of Rita" comes from. Once the "legend" is constructed and memorised, Rita is given a job at a Volkseigener Betrieb clothing factory. There she appals her colleagues — unlike them, for example, Rita takes socialist "solidarity" cash collections for projects in third world countries very seriously (for which her co-workers admonish her; they believe the donations actually go to the East German government's coffers and that the solidarity collections are just a front). Her type of genuine leftist idealism is dismissed as naïve and troublesome in the Soviet-style state, and she is unpopular. But then when Rita's horrendously depressed co-worker Tatjana, a fellow outcast who displays the same desperation towards state socialism that Rita had harboured towards capitalism, develop a mutual friendship, it bonds them closely and even sees them experimenting with intimacy. Then a television announcement from West Germany stops Rita short at a birthday party one night — the West German authorities continue to broadcast her as a wanted fugitive, and a co-worker recognizes her from the broadcast the next day and threatens to tell who she is. In response, the Stasi promptly remove her from her workplace and "legend", allowing her only a brief, painful separation from Tatjana.
Her next residence and workplace, "Legend Number 2", is a children's day care center. While on vacation by the Baltic Sea, she gets to know and falls in love with a student, Jochen. Despite her cautiousness, it becomes ever more difficult for her to maintain her façade and hide her past. Shortly before her decision to travel with him to the Soviet Union, she reveals her tale to him. Suddenly, out noticing a choir performing, Rita sees Friederike Adebach again amongst the choir's participants; she is suffering under the new identity she'd taken, and bears it only with resignation — the same resignation and sadness seen on the faces of most other GDR nationals in the film. In this way, Friederike is seen to have become "one of them". Rita and Friederike's reunion is sullen and they part unceremoniously.
Throughout, the privations of the GDR are shown as drab, grey, dull and wooden to the viewer, but Rita is noticeably smiling and joyous, in extreme (almost unsettling) contrast to every person around her. For Rita the GDR has the romantic, happy aura that had been lacking in her angry expressions and attitude towards capitalism in the beginning of the film, and that radical left romanticism is also part of the reason why she displays such profound disappointment at the end of the film when Die Wende occurs that no one except her had ever seemed to have any hope for socialism as an "experiment".
In 1989/90 the GDR collapses; secret-service powers are disbanded in the GDR and the Stasi's weapons are confiscated; Erwin Hull informs Rita that he can no longer protect her; Tatjana is arrested by the People's Police for harboring a terrorist; and it is rapidly only a question of time before Rita's true legend would be exposed and she would be pursued and taken in to custody by police. Rita is furious at the people who had promised to help and protect her, sees that she has no way out given that terrorism now "has no borders" (see the reunification of Germany), and tries in an attempted stealth move to speed across a backwoods border checkpoint by motorbike, during which an East German guard pierces her with several automatic rifle bullets. This completes the betrayal Rita had hoped would never come.
As the film closes Rita and her comrades are shown as having failed in their revolutionary communist mission against injustice, and also for the self-proclaimed communist states of Eastern Europe to have ultimately had the same disregard for human rights as leftist radicals claim capitalism has. The last moment of the film flashes a line of text: "THAT'S EXACTLY HOW IT WAS. MORE OR LESS."