Die linkshändige Frau (1978)


(director/writer: Peter Handke; screenwriter: from the novel by Peter Handke; cinematographer: Robby Muller; editor: PeterPrzygodda; music: Uli Winkler; cast: Edith Clever (Marianne), Markus Mühleisen (Stefan), Bruno Ganz (Bruno), Michael Lonsdale (Kellner), Angela Winkler (Franziska – Lehrerin), Bernhard Minetti (Father), Nicholas Novikoff (chauffeur), Bernhard Wicki) ((Publisheer); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Wim Wenders; Roadmovies (New Yorker Films); 1978-W. Germany-in German with English subtitles)

“Intellectually sound psychological thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The directorial debut of the noted Austrian screenwriter, playwright and novelist Peter Handke(“The Absence“) is this intellectually sound psychological thriller. Handke adapts his own novella to the screen. It’s a keenly observant look at the women’s universal plight to be free from the bondage of undesirable marriages. It unearths that there’s discomfort in many modern marriages, and the fault can be from either sex.

The main character is the 30-year-old Marianne (Edith Clever), referred to mostly as the woman. She’s an unhappily married woman, living in the suburbs of Paris. She abandons her loveless marriage to live alone with the couple’s only child Stefan (Markus Mühleisen). Her domineering husband Bruno (Bruno Ganz) is a sales manager for a firm selling porcelain products, who goes on long business trips across Europe. When returning from a business trip to Finland she surprises and angers him by asking for a divorce.

Marianne can’t relate to her detached young son Stefan (Markus Mühleisen) or to her father (Bernhard Minetti) or to her current friends. To be financially independent, she gets her old job back as a translator of novels from a womanizing publisher (Bernhard Wicki).

Unexpectedly Marianne meets an old friend, Franziska (Angela Winkler), who admires her courage to be independent and brings her to meet others like her at a feminist group.

The powerful film, even if without much drama, allows us to feel Marianne’s pain and ennui.

The title is lifted from a song Marianne will frequently listen to while alone that reflects her alienation.