The film stars Angela Winkler as Blum, Mario Adorf as Kommissar Beizmenne, Dieter Laser as Tötges, and Jürgen Prochnow as Ludwig.
Katharina Blum is an innocent woman who works as a housekeeper whose life is ruined by an invasive tabloid reporter and a police investigation when the man with whom she has just met and quickly fallen in love turns out to be a radical bank robber and an alleged terrorist. She suddenly becomes a suspect in the crimes he's being accused of. Throughout the film, Katharina's limits are tested and her dignity, as well as her sanity, is on the line as she tries her best to make her voice heard and the truth known.
Produced during a time of political controversy in West Germany, and a time where journalists would stop at nothing to get their name known in the field, the film digs deep into human rights violations in what should be a peaceful, democratic country, and shines a light on the vindictive nature of the press and the tendency they have to spread lies and distort the facts. The film, unlike the novel, ends with a scene at Tötges' funeral, with his publisher delivering a hypocritical condemnation of the murder(?) as an infringement on the freedom of the press.Angela Winkler – Katharina Blum
Mario Adorf – Kommissar Beizmenne (Inspector Beizmenne)
Dieter Laser – Werner Tötges
Jürgen Prochnow – Ludwig Götten
Heinz Bennent – Dr. Hubert Blorna
Hannelore Hoger – Trude Blorna
Rolf Becker – Staatsanwalt Hach
Harald Kuhlmann – Moeding
Herbert Fux – Weninger
Regine Lutz – Else Woltersheim
Werner Eichhorn – Konrad Beiters
Karl Heinz Vosgerau – Alois Sträubleder
Angelika Hillbrecht – Frau Pletzer
Horatius Häberle – Staatsanwalt Dr. Korten
Henry van Lyck – 'Scheich' Karl
Stephanie Thönnessen – Claudia Sterm
Peter Franke – Dr. Heinen
The opening scene of The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum is a man being watched. He proceeds to steal a car, and then goes to a party, where he meets a girl. They fall in love and spend the night together, and when the police come knocking on her door the next morning looking for him, he’s gone. The girl, Katharina, is arrested for aiding a terrorist, even though she had just met him. It immediately becomes a media spectacle. When Katharina is released because the police can’t find the evidence to hold her, she walks into an abundance of journalists pointing cameras at her and yelling questions at her. She tries to look away, but the police officer escorting her out grabs a fistful of her hair and makes her look into the flashing lights and curious faces. He claims they’re just doing their jobs and that she needs to respect that. From this, the viewer knows there is more going on than just Katharina falling in love with a terrorist – this film is about the media, too.
The media, as represented in the film, has a vindictive nature behind the drive to release a story. The newspaper only publishes conspiracies and disregards the truth. All of these factors don’t help in proving Katharina’s innocence as the film goes on, and it’s clear that the media don’t care if she’s really innocent or not. She’s a story, and that’s her only purpose to them.
The film, unlike the novel, ends with a scene at Tötges' funeral, with his publisher delivering a hypocritical condemnation of the murder(?) as an infringement on the freedom of the press.
In the beginning of Heinrich Böll's book, and at the end of von Trotta's and Schlöndorff's cinematic interpretation of it, the following text appears:
The characters and action in this story are purely fictitious. Should the description of certain journalistic practices result in a resemblance to the practices of Bild-Zeitung, such resemblance is neither intentional, nor fortuitous, but unavoidable.
In interviews for the 2003 Criterion Collection DVD release of the film, Schlöndorff and other crew members argue for the film's continued relevance today, drawing an analogy between the political climate of panic over terrorism in 1970s West Germany and the post-September 11, 2001 situation in the U.S. where unsubstantiated media hype was used to launch the invasion of Iraq.
Following the kidnapping and execution of a West German Corporate leader, Hanns Martin Schleyer and several other prison deaths, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum is a reflection of the conflicts in West Germany during the 1960s and '70s, a time where student movements and a political struggle were occurring. Militant terrorists such as the Red Army Faction (the Baader-Meinhof Group) had holds in the government and it didn’t take long for their violent tendencies to make citizens questionable toward their governments as reforms began to turn into repressions. Some of these repressions resulted in brutal and destructive consequences, which the film blatantly opposes. Terrorism was confused with radicalism and fear was present in almost all citizens because of the political reforms and repressions the country had undergone.
This was a time period in which media coverage was expanding and journalism was becoming one of the biggest careers to have. Journalists were ruthless in their digging to come up with a story, as reflected in the film. Police were not afraid to become violent, whether it is emotional or physical. Witnesses and suspects seldom had a voice. Some of the topics the film explores are the vindictive nature of the media and police, as well as the abuse of power, discrimination, and emotional abuse.