Coup de Grâce (1976 film)

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Coup de Grâce
Coup de Grace DVD.jpg
Directed by Volker Schlöndorff
Produced by Eberhard Junkersdorf
Anatole Dauman
Screenplay by Jutta Brückner
Margarethe von Trotta
Geneviève Dormann
Based on Coup de Grâce
by Marguerite Yourcenar
Starring Margarethe von Trotta
Matthias Habich
Rüdiger Kirschstein
Music by Stanley Myers
Cinematography Igor Luther
Edited by Jane Sperr
Distributed by Cinema 5 Distributing
Release date
  • 22 October 1976 (1976-10-22) (West Germany)
Running time
97 minutes
Country West Germany
Language German

Coup de Grâce (German: Der Fangschuß, French: Le Coup de grâce) is a 1976 West German film directed by Volker Schlöndorff. It was adapted from the novel by the same name by the French author Marguerite Yourcenar. The title comes from the French expression, meaning "finishing blow".


In 1919 Latvia, a detachment of German Freikorps soldiers is stationed in a chateau in the town of Kratovice to fight Bolshevik guerrillas. The chateau is the home of the soldier Konrad de Reval and his sister Sophie de Reval. Sophie is attracted to another soldier, a close friend of Konrad's named Erich von Lhomond. However, the reticent Erich rebuffs her advances. In retaliation, Sophie has trysts with other members of the military troop. Erich is noticeably angered by her behavior. Eventually, Sophie learns that Erich and Konrad are lovers. After this discovery, she joins the leftist guerrillas, whom she had been in contact with previously. Erich's soldiers capture her and her comrades. Sophie asks that Erich execute her himself, and he obliges. In a striking single tracking shot, we see Erich casually shoot Sophie in the head before joining in a photo with the other soldiers. As all board a train, the camera pans back to the corpses of the executed.


The events of the novel, Marguerite Yourcenar's Coup de Grâce from 1939, are seen from the point of view of the soldier Erich von Lhomond. However, the main character of the film is Sophie de Reval, played by Margarethe von Trotta, who also co-wrote the screenplay. The filmmakers felt that an audience of 1976 would more readily identify with the independence and resolve exhibited by Sophie than with Erich's repressed conservatism.[citation needed]

In addition, the Russian Civil War is only a vague backdrop in the novel, but the film depicts battlefield engagements with a brutal reality that makes the war a significant presence.

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