Biography

Volker Schlöndorff is arguably one of the most important and internationally successful German directors. He is possessed with a pronounced fondness for bringing German and international literary classics to the screen. He enthusiastically attends to works that have been considered “unfilmable” and makes them accessible and comprehensible to larger audiences. His repertoire also includes socio-critical works. All of his films are ambitious, but also aim to entertain.

Schlöndorff was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, on March 31th 1939. He spent his childhood in nearby Schlangenbad, but left his Hessian home at a young age for France. Two months there turned into ten years, allowing Schlöndorff to spend most of his youth in Paris. It is here that he completed his schooling and also laid the foundation for his journey into film. Read more about Volker Schlöndorff’s younger years at Childhood and Youth.

Taking a short detour by studying political science, Schlöndorff finally entered the film-world as an assistant director to Louis Malle, Alain Resnais and Jean-Pierre Melville. More information about his first steps in the film-business can be found under Volker Schlöndorff – Journey into Film.

In 1964, Schlöndorff directed his first feature film, Young Törless, which won several awards and was the first international success for the budding movement of the New German Cinema. Several films should follow, like the quirky, mischievous genre-mix A Degree of Murder or the journey into the Heimatfilm-genre, The Sudden Wealth of the Poor People of Kombach, as well as the Western-inspired literary-adaptation Michael Kohlhaas or the emancipation-tale A Free Woman.

With The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, Schlöndorff had his box-office breakthrough in Germany. He co-directed this film with Margarethe von Trotta, whom he had married in 1971. They divorced in 1991 and Schlöndorff married editor Angelika Gruber in 1992. More private information about Schlöndorff can be found at Volker Schlöndorff – Private Life.

The film-version of Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum became Schlöndorff’s biggest success to date. The film earned him a Palm D’Or in Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, opening him doors for international productions. German-American films with an international cast followed, including Death of a Salesman with Dustin Hoffman or Palmetto with Woody Harrelson. Find out more about Schlöndorff‘s films at Volker Schlöndorff – Films and Other Works.

Apart from his work as a film-director, Schlöndorff became an enthusiastic director of operas and stage plays. Working with Hans Werner Henze on some of his films, Schlöndorff decided to direct operas like Henze’s We Come To the River, Leos Janacek’s Katja Kabanova and From the House of the Dead, as well as La Bohème and Lady Macbeth of Mzensk. Find out more at Volker Schlöndorff - Opera and Theatre.

Schlöndorff aired his Political Views not only in his films. In 2005 and 2009 he openly supported the candidate for the future chancellor Angela Merkel during her campaign. You can find extensive information at: Volker Schlöndorff – Politics.

He has also supported the preservation of the Babelsberg Studios to keep it open and conserve a historical part of cinema history. You can read more at Volker Schlöndorff - Babelsberg Studios.