Volker Schlöndorff

Professor of Film and Literature at The European Graduate School / EGS.


Volker Schlöndorff (b. 1939) is an acclaimed movie director based in Berlin and, since 2001, a professor of film and literature at The European Graduate School / EGS in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. He grew up in Schlangenbad and attended high school near his birthplace located in the low mountain range region of Taunus, in the state of Hesse. In 1955, he started his studies in France, first going to a liberal, Jesuit boarding school in Morbihan in the region of Brittany, and then to study in Paris at the elite school “Lycée Henri IV” in the Latin Quarter where he got his Baccalauréat (high school diploma). He then attended the Sorbonne, where he studied political science and economics. However, at that time, he used to go—as often as three times a day—to the Cinémathèque française (a reputable French film library), which makes available one of the largest archives in the world of films, movie documents, and documentaries. There he had the opportunity to meet many of the Nouvelle Vague directors (French New Wave)—famous for rejecting traditional forms of cinema and doing so with a youthful, critical look.

As a native German, Volker Schlöndorff initially rebelled against his cultural origins and sought his identity in American and French culture. He worked for ten years in France as an assistant to several French directors, including Louis Malle, Jean-Pierre Melville, and Alain Resnais—though he eventually realized that it was too artificial for him, as a German, to try to be a director in France. This led him back to Germany where he directed his first literary adaptation, Young Törless (1966), which carved out a style that would remain particular to him throughout his career. His most famous film, The Tin Drum (1979), which was also his international breakthrough, is based on the novel of the same name by Günter Grass. For this movie, Schlöndorff won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded to competing films at the French Film Festival in Cannes.

In 1962, after a year of preparation for the entrance examination to study at the highly regarded Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (IDHEC) and being received as number 11 out of 300, he dropped out after only a being there for a couple of years. Preferring, in place of the perhaps more theoretical approaches to films, to work on his first film Zazie dans le Métro (Zazie in the Metro) as an assistant director to the already critically acclaimed French director Louis Malle. Volker Schlöndorff would end up working for years in France as an assistant director, ending around 1965.

In 1969, Schlöndorff and film director Peter Fleischmann founded the production company Hallelujah-Film. From 1971 to 1991, Volker Schlöndorff was married to the actress and director Margarethe von Trotta. At the beginning of the marriage, she worked with him as an actor, an assistant director, co-director, and co-author. In 1973, Volker Schlöndorff co-founded his own production company, which is called Bioskop Film. Additionally, Volker Schlöndorff has also directed several operas in both Germany and France. His 1975 film, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, was produced with his then-wife Margarethe von Trotta, which was a great success. In 1980, after receiving the Oscar for best foreign film for the movie entitled The Tin Drum, he moved to the US with the intention of spending the rest of his life there. However, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, his plans changed, and he moved from New York to Berlin and then Potsdam. In 1991, Schlöndorff and von Trotta divorced; Schlöndorff then married Angelika Gruber in 1992. At the age of 60, he began to run regularly to train and does one or two marathons a year. Starting in 1992 he became the chief executive of Studio Babelsberg in Germany, which is the oldest large-scale movie studio in the world.

Volker Schlöndorff is considered to be part of the German New Cinema, though his work is singular within this movement for his choice of material and his independent style. One aspect of Volker Schlöndorff’s films which sets them apart is their strong literary inspiration; many of his films are adaptations of famous literary works by Arthur Miller, Günter Grass, Marcel Proust, Heinrich von Kleist, and others.

When Volker Schlöndorff was presented with the Carl Zucker medal in 2009, media scholar Thomas Koebner explained that Schlöndorff’s movies have a great sense of justice; Schlöndorff always stood for the disadvantaged, but in a subtle way. Schlöndorff has received a number of distinctions in addition to those already mentioned: in 1978, he shared the Special Recognition award at the 28th International Film Festival in Berlin for the film Germany in Autumn; in 2002, he was the recipient of the highest French order La Légion d’Honneur (Legion of Honor); in 2004, he received an Honorary Award at the Bavarian Film Awards; and, in 2009, he accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Camerimage, which is The International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography held in a different city every year.

Due to their frequent origins in literary sources, Volker Schlöndorff’s films possess a strong attention to narrative. There is a tendency in his films for exploring the meaning of a character’s life struggle in relation to false cultural or institutional ideals. In his adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman (1985), the hypocritical perfection of the American Dream is shown in its destructive consequences. His film Strike (2006) tells the story of Agnieszka Wolynicza, who was instrumental in the Solidarity Movement in Poland. History and character are nearly opposed in this film and are related to one another in an indirect or latent way. This comes across in the structure of the film, which is separated into a biopic of the character that closely follows her life as well as a section at the end that tellingly reveals the macroscopic effects of her activity in relation to the Solidarity Movement. However, this film, along with many others of Volker Schlöndorff, is told from a position of non-belief in the romanticism of historical necessity. Volker Schlöndorff has also produced many documentaries. Since January 2010, he is a member of the board of World Vision Germany—the board members bring their experience to World Vision and advise the bureau of general issues in movies.

Volker Schlöndorff has directed many films, including (in their original titles): Der junge Törleß (1966), Der Paukenspieler (1967), Mord und Totschlag (1967), Michael Kohlhaas – Der Rebell (1969), Baal (1970), Der plötzliche Reichtum der armen Leute von Kombach (1971), Die Moral der Ruth Halbfass (1972), Strohfeuer (1972), Übernachtung in Tirol (1974), Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann (1975), Der Fangschuß (1976), Nur zum Spaß, nur zum Spiel (1977), the segment ‘Die verschobene Antigone’ in Deutschland im Herbst (1978), Die Blechtrommel (1979), Der Kandidat (1980), Die Fälschung(1981), Krieg und Frieden (1982), Un amour de Swann (1984), Death of a Salesman(1984), A Gathering of Old Men (1987), The Handmaid’s Tale (1990), Homo Faber(1991), The Michael Nyman Songbook (1992), Der Unhold (1996), Palmetto (1998), Die Stille nach dem Schuß (2000), Ein Produzent hat Seele oder er hat keine (2002), the segment ‘The Enlightenment’ in Ten Minutes Older: The Cello (2002), Der neunte Tag (2004), Enigma – Eine uneingestandene Liebe (2005), Billy Wilder Speaks(2006), Strajk – Die Heldin von Danzig (2006), and Ulzhan (2007).



Tambour battant: Mémoires de Volker Schlöndorff, Schlöndorff, Volker. Tambour battant: Mémoires de Volker Schlöndorff. Translated by Jeanne Etoré and Bernard Lortholary. Flammarion, 2009. ISBN: 2081223945

Licht, Schatten und Bewegung, Schlöndorff, Volker. Licht, Schatten und Bewegung. Carl, 2008. ISBN: 3446230823

Volker Schlöndorff, Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent, Schlöndorff, Volker. Volker Schlöndorff, Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent. Gerhardt-Mercator-Universität, 2001.

L’Onore Perduto di Katharina Blum: Sceneggiatura Tratta dall’omonimo Romanzo di Heinrich Böll, Schlöndorff, Volker. L’Onore Perduto di Katharina Blum: Sceneggiatura Tratta dall’omonimo Romanzo di Heinrich Böll. Translated by Margerethe von Trotta. Casa del Mantegna, 2000. ISBN: 888712311X

Homo Faber: Sceneggiatura dell’omonimo Film di Volker Schlöndorff, Schlöndorff, Volker. Homo Faber: Sceneggiatura dell’omonimo Film di Volker Schlöndorff. Translated by P. Bocaletti. Edited by Rudolph Wurlitzer. Comune di Mantova, 1999. ISBN: 8887123063

Der Unhold: mit Auszügen aus dem Drehbuch, Schlöndorff, Volker. Der Unhold: mit Auszügen aus dem Drehbuch. Steidl, 1996. ISBN: 3882434252

Die Fälschung als Film und der Krieg im Libanon, Schlöndorff, Volker, Nicolas Born, and Bernd Lepel. Die Fälschung als Film und der Krieg im Libanon. Zweitausendeins, 1981. ASIN: B001AVG44Y

Die Blechtrommel: Tagebuch e. Verfilmung, Schlöndorff, Volker. Die Blechtrommel: Tagebuch e. Verfilmung. Luchterhand, 1979. ISBN: 347261272X


Le ciel la terre: L’Hôte du pape

Le ciel la terre: L’Hôte du pape. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Gabriel Productions, 2016.


Dimplomatie. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Film Oblige, Gaumont, Blueprint Film, 2014.

Das Meer am Morgen

Das Meer am Morgen. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Les Canards Sauvages, Arte France, 2012.

Ulzhan – Das vergessene Licht

Ulzhan – Das vergessene Licht. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Arte France, BR, 2007.

​Strajk – Die Heldin von Danzig

Strajk – Die Heldin von Danzig. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Arte, BR, 2006.

​Billy WIlder Speaks

Billy WIlder Speaks. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Bioskop Film, 2006.

Enigma – Eine uneingestandene Liebe

Enigma – Eine uneingestandene Liebe. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. ARD Degeto Film, BR, 2005.

​Der neunte Tag

Der neunte Tag. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Provobis Film, BR, 2005.

​Ein Produzent hat Seele oder er hat keine

Ein Produzent hat Seele oder er hat keine. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Krümmel Film, 2002.

​The Legend of Rita/Die Stille nacho den Schuß

The Legend of Rita/Die Stille nacho den Schuß. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Arte, Babelsberg Film, 2000.

​Der Unhold

Der Unhold. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Canal+, France 2 Cinéma, 1999.


Palmetto. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Castle Rock Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, 1998.

The Michael Nyman Songbook

The Michael Nyman Songbook. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Arte, Bioskop, 1992.

​Voyager/Homo Faber

Voyager/Homo Faber. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Action Films, Bioskop, 1992.

The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Bioskop, Cinecome Entertainment Group, 1990.

A Gathering of Old Men

A Gathering of Old Men. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Bioskop Film, CBS, 1987.

Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Roxbury Productions, 1985.

​Swann in Love/Un amour de Swann

Swann in Love/Un amour de Swann. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Gaumont, SFPC, 1984.

​Krieg und Frieden

Krieg und Frieden. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Boskop Film, 1983.

​Circle of Deceit

Circle of Deceit. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Argos Films, Bioskop, 1981.

​Der Kandidat

Der Kandidat. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Bioskop, 1980.

​The Tin Drum/Die Blechtrommel

The Tin Drum/Die Blechtrommel. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Bioskop, 1980.

​Nur zum Spaß, nur zum Spiel

Nur zum Spaß, nur zum Spiel. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Boskop, 1977.

Coup de grâce/Der Fangschuß

Coup de grâce/Der Fangschuß. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Bioskop, Argos Films, 1976.

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum/Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum/Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Bioskop, 1975.

​Ûbernachtung in Tirol

Ûbernachtung in Tirol. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Hallelujah Films, HR, 1974.

A Free Woman/Strohfeuer

A Free Woman/Strohfeuer. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Hallelujah Films, 1972.

​Die Moral der Ruth Halbfass

Die Moral der Ruth Halbfass. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Hallelujah Films, 1972.

​Der plötzliche Reichtum der armen Leute von Kombach

Der plötzliche Reichtum der armen Leute von Kombach. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Hallelujah Film, 1971.


Baal. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. HR, BR,1970.

​Michael Kohlhaas – Der Rebell

Michael Kohlhaas – Der Rebell. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Houwer-Film, 1969.

​Degree of Murder/Mord und Totschlag

Degree of Murder/Mord und Totschlag. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Rob Houwer Productions, 1969.

​Young Torless/Der junge Törless

Young Torless/Der junge Törless. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Franz Seitz Filmproduktion, 1968.


Méditerranée. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Les Films du Losange, 1998.

en kümmert’s?

Wen kümmert’s? Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Herbert Rimbach Film, 1960.


Zweierlei Maß

Schlöndorff, Volker. “Zweierlei Maß.” Cicero, May 2010.


Schlöndorff, Volker. “Unfehlbar.” Cicero, March 2009.

Frei sprechend!

Schlöndorff, Volker. “Frei sprechend!” Zustandsbeschreibung: Tagesschau vom Dienstag, April 1, 2008.

Brief an den Cicero-Salon aus dem Herzen Afrikas

Schlöndorff, Volker. “Brief an den Cicero-Salon aus dem Herzen Afrikas.” Cicero Salon, June 6, 2008.

Berliner Lektion

Schlöndorff, Volker. “Berliner Lektion.” Volker Schlondorff.com, No Date.

Europa? Ich war nicht wählen!

Schlöndorff, Volker. “Europa? Ich war nicht wählen!” Volker Schlondorff.com, No Date.

Horst Wendlandt

Schlöndorff, Volker. “Horst Wendlandt.” Volker Schlondorff.com, No Date.

In Zugen Sprechen

Schlöndorff, Volker. “In Zugen Sprechen.” Volker Schlondorff.com, No Date.

Maurice Jarre

Schlöndorff, Volker. “Maurice Jarre.” Volker Schlondorff.com, No Date.


Schlöndorff, Volker. “Nazifilme.” Volker Schlondorff.com, No Date.


Schlöndorff, Volker. “Quoten.” Volker Schlondorff.com, No Date.

Rettet die Tagesschau!

Schlöndorff, Volker. “Rettet die Tagesschau!” Volker Schlondorff.com, No Date.

Sprachen Fremdsprachen

Schlöndorff, Volker. “Sprachen Fremdsprachen.” Volker Schlondorff.com, No Date.

Touqeville Land Revisited

Schlöndorff, Volker. “Touqeville Land Revisited.” Volker Schlondorff.com, No Date.

Von der Freude am Sprechen

Schlöndorff, Volker. “Von der Freude am Sprechen.” Volker Schlondorff.com, No Date.

Zur defa diskussion

Schlöndorff, Volker. “Zur defa diskussion,” Volker Schlondorff.com, No Date.


Volker Schlöndorff, Oscar Winning Film Director

Schlöndorff, Volker, and Peter Craven. “Volker Schlöndorff, Oscar Winning Film Director.” DW World, April 26, 2009.

Man trampelt sich gegenseitig tot,

Schlöndorff, Volker, F. Göttler, and Susam Vahabazadeh. “Man trampelt sich gegenseitig tot.” Süddeutsche Zeitung, December 13, 2007.

Interview mit Volker Schlöndorff ‘Ich war ein Kofferträger

Schlöndorff, Volker, and Willi Winkler. “Interview mit Volker Schlöndorff ‘Ich war ein Kofferträger’.” Süddeutsche Zeitung, September 10, 2007.

An Interview with Volker Schlondroff

Schlöndorff, Volker, and Jeff Reichert. “An Interview with Volker Schlondroff.” Reverse Shot 20 (2007).

Volker Schlöndorff über Nazi-Idealisten: Erzählen kann man viel,

Schlöndorff, Volker, and Rico Pfirstinger. “Volker Schlöndorff über Nazi-Idealisten: Erzählen kann man viel.” Filmreporter.de, November 6, 2004.


Schlöndorff, Volker, and Anthony Kaufman. “Interview.” Indie Wire, January 31, 2001.

An interview with German filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff

Schlöndorff, Volker, and Prairie Miller. “An interview with German filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff.” World Socialist Website, February 2001.

Ich hab nie dazu gehört, aber ich habe einen sehr guten Einblick gehabt

Schlöndorff, Volker, and Rüdiger Suchsland. “Ich hab nie dazu gehört, aber ich habe einen sehr guten Einblick gehabt.” Artechock, September 14, 2000.

Playing With Pulp Fiction: Neo-Noir ‘Palmetto’ A Departure For Director

Schlöndorff, Volker. “Playing With Pulp Fiction: Neo-Noir ‘Palmetto’ A Departure For Director.” Spliced Wire, February 18, 1998.

Schloendorff z Babelsbergu

Schlöndorff, Volker, and W. Wertenstein. “Schloendorff z Babelsbergu.” Kino, May 1993.

Director’s Chair

Schlöndorff, Volker, and D. DeNicolo. “Director’s Chair.” Interview, March 1990.

Volker Schlöndorff

Schlöndorff, Volker, and Claudia Steinberg. “Volker Schlöndorff.” BOMB 32, Summer (1990).

Travelling Man

Schlöndorff, Volker, and Brian Case. “Travelling Man.” Time Out, April 15, 1992.

Volker Schlondorff

Schlöndorff, Volker. “Volker Schlondorff.” UNESCO Courier, July-August 1995.


Schlöndorff, Volker, and B. Steinborn. “Interview.” Filmfaust, February/March 1983.

The Limits of Journalism

Schlöndorff, Volker, A. Auster, and L. Quart. “The Limits of Journalism.” Cineaste Vol. 12, No. 2 (1982).

The Tin Drum: Volker Schlöndorff’s ‘Dream of Childhood’

Schlöndorff, Volker, and J. Hughes. “The Tin Drum: Volker Schlöndorff’s ‘Dream of Childhood’.” Film Quarterly Spring (1981).

Melville und der Befreiungskampf in Baltikum

Schlöndorff, Volker, and H. Wiedemann. “Melville und der Befreiungskampf in Baltikum.” Film und Ton December (1976).

Feu de paille

Schlöndorff, Volker, and M. Martin. “Feu de paille.” Ecran, February 1973.

Volker Schloendorff: The Rebel

Schlöndorff, Volker, Rui Nogueira, and Nicoletta Zalaffi.”Volker Schloendorff: The Rebel.” Film, Summer 1969.


Volker Schlöndorff

The Work of a Director

Volker Schlöndorff

A Gathering of Old Men

Volker Schlöndorff

The Ninth Day

Volker Schlöndorff

Death of a Salesman

Volker Schlöndorff

Tin Drum

Volker Schlöndorff

Homo Faber/Voyager

Volker Schlöndorff

Circle of Deceit False Witness 4/4

Volker Schlöndorff

Circle of Deceit False Witness 2/4

Volker Schlöndorff

Circle of Deceit False Witness 1/4

Volker Schlöndorff

Circle of Deceit False Witness 3/4