A group of RAF terrorists need to flee the Federal Republic of Germany after a disastrous rescue attempt during which a lawyer was killed. Unexpected help comes from the Stasi, who not only give them a place to hide but also provide them with new identities. Thus, Rita Vogt is given the chance of a new life as a worker in the GDR. Yet, the search for her is still going on and her anonymity in the GDR does not last long. Several times the “legends” collapse and Rita, out of fear that her cover blows, has to give up the life that she has build up, detach herself from people and step by step from her ideals as well. After the fall of the Berlin Wall she has to flee for one last time ….
The first thoughts for a shooting of the “German-German history” occurred at a time with which the film ends: the fall of the Berlin Wall. Volker Schlöndorff meets Wolfgang Kohlhaase at the DEFA-studios in Babelsberg, where he in the beginning of the 1990s took over the management.
As old film professionals we immediately sympathized with each other, wanted to make a film about the fall of the Berlin Wall. We began – as if for a pitaval – to collect various cases that could only occur here and now. (Schlöndorff 2001, p. 442)
In the process they find the real story of RAF dropouts who, in the early 1980s, hid in the GDR. Among others, was Susanne Albrecht, niece of the murdered banker Jürgen Ponto, Henning Beer and Inge Viett, who has inspired the character Rita. “It is about incidents in contemporary history, all of the story lines are carefully researched, also together with the parties involved, however, the people and the story line are fictitious.” (Schlöndorff, Stille-28_6_6_01_001a)
The provocative nature of the topic caused the filmproject to continuesly be declined:
A terrorist and a Stasi man, who were both not dislikable – that leads to the perception: So you are pro Stasi and pro terrorism?! Two taboos in one film: That was too much for the television, the distributors and the sponsors. It would take six years until my successors in the studio, Friedrich-Carl Wachs and Andreas Hofer, approved the project and produced it of all things with the MDR in Leipzig. (Schlöndorff 2011, p. 446)
Amongst the many famous actors who auditioned for DIE STILLE NACH DEM SCHUSS (The Legend of Rita) (Franka Potente, Karoline Eichhorn, Claudia Michelsen amongst them) Schlöndorff does not find ‘his’ Rita. Instead he finds her on the stage in Disco Pigs, in the Baracke Berlin: Bibiana Beglau, who had never acted for a movie before,
[…] instantly appealed to me, because she acted so physically with an almost athletic input, and maybe because her face reminded me of Angela Winkler, the heroine from The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum.
The actor Harald Schrott was also discovered by Schlöndorff in the theater for the role of Andi. Nadja Uhl and Jenny Schily got their roles after auditioning, Martin Wuttke as Hull after Schlöndorff experienced him at the 90th birthday of actress Marianne Hoppe: “He released such an atmosphere of briskness, but one could also feel that he could play Mephisto, so that I thought, he is the ideal Oberst for the Stasi. And he is the only cast member of the film who does not come from the east.”
Also during and after the completion the film provoked controversy:
We had shown the terrorists as humans, and the Stasi man that so caringly attended to them did not fit the usual cliché as well. Generally, the entire representation of life in the east – the ones in the west thought – was wrong! (Schlöndorff 2011, p. 447).
Inge Viett, the original consultant for the film, distanced herself from the project, reasoning that the film “depoliticizes” and is too “grandstanding” (SPIEGEL, 16/02/2000). For Viett Schlöndorff did not show plainly that the film tells a fictive story with fictive people in it – and sued him for copyright infringement. They reached an out-of-court agreement.
At the same time the film was shown at the Berlinale with great success:
Bibiana Beglau, who was being celebrated as the discovery of the film, and Nadja Uhl were awarded with the Silberner Bären ex aequo for their performance, Volker Schlöndorff received the Großer Preis der Europäischen Film- und Fernsehakademie (European Film and TV Academy) (“Blauer Engel”). However, the critics are divided: the view of the GDR is seen as a nostalgic romanticisation of the West terrorism and GDR daily life (Kaden, Martina in: B.Z., 14/09/2000), the film being “obliging, populist, banal” (cited after Kilb, Andreas in: FAZ, 14/09/2000). On the other hand Schlöndorff’s examination with the German-German past is seen as an “unexpected comeback” (Kilb 2000), his “laconic production style” as “congenial replenishment” to Kohlhaas’ “pointed dialogs and his dry humor” (Hamacher, Rolf Ruediger in: filmecho | filmwoche 36/2000) and the film as revival of the “German art cinema, including its political intention” (Palma, Claudia, in: MAZ, 09/09/2000).