Based on a novella by Heinrich von Kleist set at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. A virtuous widow (Clever), saved from rape and then, while asleep, raped by her rescuer (Ganz), is cast off by her family when she gives birth to a child and proclaims her innocence, only to be then courted by her 'heroic rescuer', whom she doesn't know is the father of her child. In the course of the story, Kleist sets out in a most ironically literary fashion a series of arguments about the place of women in society. Rohmer's great achievement is that it is this, rather than merely the story, that he has brought to the screen, recreating and making even more ironic Kleist's literary written conversations, and opting, in his colour scheme, sets and camerawork, for a style that hovers between formalism and realism, and so further distances the viewer from the characters.
Cast and crew