Anchor Bay // 1996 // 130 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // September 19th, 2003
The true story of sex, blackmail, and murder that shocked Europe.
Growing up poor and orphaned in post World War II Germany, Rosemarie Nitribitt longs to be rich and famous. She constantly vanishes into a world of imagined fame and fashion. But she has no skills or job. All she has to fall back on is her body and the ability to use it for the pleasure of men. One night, she seduces a powerful businessman named Korad Hartog. They begin a torrid affair away from the eyes of upper-class society. He supplies her with a home, clothes, and cars, and still Rosemarie wants more. She wants Hartog to leave his snooty fiancée and marry her. She thinks that love will outlast the gossip. But when pushed, Hartog simply leaves her. Rosemarie then befriends a French competitor of Hartog's, a Mr. Fribert, and their acquaintance turns into a business arrangement. Fribert wants dirt on the German industrialists to improve his bargaining position. He provides Rosemarie with expensive clothing and a luxury apartment and, in return, she will have sex with the factory owners and government ministers, audio taping their time together. Fribert then uses the tapes to blackmail the businessmen. Soon, Rosemarie is a marked woman, wanted by the men for what she knows and threatened by Fribert for the liability she becomes. She has finally risen to a place of unimagined wealth and notoriety. But infamy is not the kind of celebrity she originally sought. As circumstances spin out of control and with no one, not even old friend Hartog to turn to, tragedy seems to be the final fate for A Girl Called Rosemarie.
The problem with the movie A Girl Called Rosemarie can be summed up in the title itself. Indeed, the character of Rosemarie Nitribitt can be simply defined as a one-note, golddigging whore and nothing more. There is no nuance to her character, no secret artistic passion or deep personal pain. She is just a woman who uses her physical assets so that men pay her way through the world. Now, since this is based on a true story, it is possible that the real life Rosemarie was also such a blank, shallow person. But to have to invest two hours of your entertainment time watching and trying to identify with this glamorized street trash is next to impossible. Rosemarie Nitribitt is not a sympathetic human being. She doesn't call out for understanding or pity. Her life is completely of her own making, from her disgruntled foster home experiences (where the people obviously cared for her) to the big business scandal that eventually leads to tragedy. She seems naïve and juvenile when it comes to her affair with a wealthy aristocrat (the man tells her at least a dozen times they do not have a future together), and she constantly mistakes lust and physical passion for honest emotion. Even when she is partaking in the most depraved acts of fetish-driven sexuality, she functions under the belief that it is her personality (and it must be one we don't get a chance to witness onscreen) and her charms that keep men coming to her, not her available open orifices. She's exactly how Woody Allen describes Eric Bogosian's character in Deconstructing Harry. Rosemarie Nitribitt is the literal opposite of a paranoid. She is under the mistaken belief that everybody loves her.
With such a hollow center to our glorified television mini-series (take out the brief nudity and Germanic language and you could easily call this Danielle Steele's Teutonic Tart or Jackie Collins's Reichstag Wives) we then have to hope that the factual scandal material is extraordinarily engaging or just extremely tawdry. And it is neither. Basically, a lot of wealthy, moneygrubbing German businessmen have sex with Rosemarie outside of their marriage vows and, once tapes of said trysts are produced, decide that she and her roguish French pimp/protector/fellow industrialist and business competitor Fribert must be stopped. End of story. There is no surprise twist at the end or unique facet to the gossip. It's all about sex and saving face, something we've seen literally dozens of times before. And the ploddingly episodic A Girl Called Rosemarie simply moves from one manufactured moment to another, like a half-baked highlight reel, skimming over the surface of what was surely a more substantial situation in its heyday. There seems to be extensive subplot material left out (even though the original German Television version was only six minutes longer than what is on DVD), producing questions that just don't have answers and events that seem to emerge out of the ether. The young man who Rosemarie picks up and supports throughout the film is never explained. The weird relationship between Hartog (Rosemarie's dream suitor) and his sister is left a mystery. And the sudden switch from CEO to skin peddler makes Fribert seem cartoonish and vacant. But A Girl Called Rosemarie hopes that its main character's charisma and case makes up for the missing pieces. But she just adds more ambiguity to a story that's already all surface and no substance.
Anchor Bay does a very nice job, both visually and sonically, with the release of A Girl Called Rosemarie on DVD. Director Bernd Eichinger, better known in America for producing such films as Resident Evil and the upcoming Fantastic Four, makes the occasional artistic flourish in the compositions and visuals here (a scene where Rosemarie walks out of a mansion and onto a snow-covered estate is especially impressive) and the 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen image looks incredible. The contrast is sharp and the colors vibrant. There is not the usual flatness present that one associates with foreign film product. On the sound side, the Dolby Digital Stereo has a very nice balance between dialogue, underscoring, and effects. There is no distortion or loss of nuance in the aural aspects.
Unfortunately, that is the extent of the DVD packing. There is no trailer, no cast or crew filmographies, and no contextual material that would help flesh out the backstory on this supposedly big-deal mystery of deception and disgrace in post-WWII West Germany. This lack of explanation is fatal to A Girl Called Rosemarie. What is presented on screen doesn't ignite the imagination or stimulate the seedy sleaze factors the way it should. All the components are in place: bloated beery German businessmen who give off an aura of perversion even when discussing trade barriers; a blond bimbo more than happy to indulge their indiscretions; and an ambiguous, mysterious ending. Yet A Girl Called Rosemarie just can't seem to engage us. Perhaps it's because we are dealing with a film that's only really about the second oldest profession. Or perhaps it's because it's telling the same oldest story.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, dubbed)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (German, original language)
Running Time: 130 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated