The film Marianne and Julianne (1981) owing true to its name, follows the story of two sisters carrying the same name. Set in the 1960s and ’70s, it captures the life and history of Gudrun Ensslin, a member of The Red Army Faction who was found dead in her prison cell in Stammheim in 1977. The army preached against the lack of results from peaceful protests against the Vietnam War, channelling their energies into campaigns of direct action.
Marianne and Julianne are two sides of the same coin, both advocating for the said cause, albeit their ideologies curving along different paths. Julianne believes in her practice of wanting to bring a wider social change through her job as a radical feminist reporter. Whereas Marianne, ironically lamb-like as a child, grows up to join a terrorist group that believes in staining hands with blood for the greater good.
We see their childhood in flashbacks, seeing snippets of the keystone events of their life and how they led to the decisions that shaped their lives in the present and the future.
As the film progresses, we feel Julianne’s increasingly arduous struggle to lead her sister back to the path away from anger and vengeance. Marianne heeds no advice to her sister’s words and lands herself in prison soon after. Julianne, in a desperate attempt, tries to grasp on to the last threads left to salvage between them, only for Marianne to snip them nonchalantly. The story of the two sisters comes to a melancholy conclusion, and in the voiceover, we hear Julianne reveal the true essence of her feelings for Marianne.
The titillating performance by the actresses evokes a plethora of emotions in the viewer, Sukowa breathing life into the very character and solidifying the conviction we come to associate with Marianne. Whereas Lampe equally shines with her phenomenal depiction of walking the tightrope, having to choose between vesting her interests in either the ideology she adopted or the sister she loves dearly so.
Margarethe Von Totta takes the story and moulds it into a narrative that focuses on the way people as humans are tested against the very fabric of beliefs they are cut out of. In all its truth, it is a tale trapped in time and caged by the political and social constraints of society.
The film is a message against the rooted political beliefs and misogyny that plagues society and the struggle of two sisters in the middle of it, trying to hold onto the bonds of love they share along with the journey of staying true to themselves.
Zoology Hons. (2nd Year)