With a predilection for sociocritical themes and adaptations of German and international literary classics, Volker Schlöndorff has become one of the most eminent German directors.
The filmmaker was born in Wiesbaden, Germany in 1939. He spent his childhood in nearby Schlangenbad, but left his Hessian home at a young age for France where he stayed for ten years, spending most of his youth in Paris. It is here that he completed his schooling and also laid the foundation for his journey into film. Taking a short detour by studying political science, Schlöndorff finally entered the world of film as an assistant director to Louis Malle, Alain Resnais, and Jean-Pierre Melville. In 1964, he directed his first feature film, Young Törless (Der junge Törless), which won several awards and was the first international success for the budding movement of the New German Cinema. Several films were to follow, like the quirky, mischievous genre-mix A Degree of Murder (Mord und Totschlag) (1966), the Western-inspired literary adaptation Michael Kohlhaas (Michael Kohlhaas - Der Rebell) (1969), the journey into the Heimatfilm genre The Sudden Wealth of the Poor People of Kombach (Der plötzliche Reichtum der armen Leute von Kombach) (1970), as well as the emancipatory tale A Free Woman (Strohfeuer) (1972).
The 1970s were his most successful decade, with The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum) (1975), which he co-directed with Margarethe von Trotta, or Schlöndorff’s biggest success to date, the film adaptation of Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum (Die Blechtrommel) (1979) which earned him a Palme D’Or in Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, thus opening the door to international productions to him. German-American films with an American cast followed suit (Death of a Salesman (1985), Palmetto (1998). In 2004, Volker Schlöndorff filmed on location in Luxembourg for his war drama The Ninth Day (Der neunte Tag), loosely based on the life of Luxembourgish priest Jean Bernard.
Apart from his work as a film director, Schlöndorff became an enthusiastic director of operas and stage plays, directing more than 7 stage productions in three decades.