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Coup de Grace (The Criterion Collection)

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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(May 27, 2003)
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The Criterion Collection
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Latvia, 1919: the end of the Russian Civil War. An aristocratic young woman (brilliantly played by Margarethe von Trotta) becomes involved with a sexually repressed Prussian soldier. When she is rejected by her love, the young woman is sent into a downward spiral of psychosexual depression, promiscuity, and revolutionary collaboration. A startling tale of heartbreak and violence set against the backdrop of bloody revolution, Volker Schlöndorff’s Le Coup de grâce is a powerful film that explores the interrelation of private passion and political commitment.


Passion and politics collide with tragically bleak results in Le Coup de Grace. Dedicating his film to French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville, director Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum) emulates Melville's fascination with themes of war, adapting (with his wife and star, Margarethe von Trotta) the novel Der Fangschuß by Marguerite Yourcenar, set in Latvia in 1919 after the end of World War I. While sporadic fighting continues in the Baltic states, naive countess Sophie (von Trotta) seals her fate by falling in love with Erich (Matthias Habich), a Prussian soldier who secretly desires Sophie's brother (in one of several vaguely handled subplots). She retaliates by supporting the Communists and, when captured, demands that Erich be her executioner. Like the repressed emotions of its characters, the drama's power is nearly subdued by Schlondorff's murky ambiguity; it helps to be familiar with the film's historical context, but Le Coup de Grace is still a worthy companion to Schlöndorff's The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, and a hauntingly atmospheric tale of wartime self-destruction. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • New high-definition transfer with improved subtitle translation
  • Video interview with director Volker Schlondorff and screenwriter/star Margarethe Von Trotta

Product Details

  • Actors: Matthias Habich, Margarethe von Trotta, Rüdiger Kirschstein, Marc Eyraud, Bruno Thost
  • Directors: Volker Schlöndorff
  • Writers: Margarethe von Trotta, Geneviève Dormann, Jutta Brückner, Marguerite Yourcenar
  • Producers: Anatole Dauman, Eberhard Junkersdorf, Hans Prescher
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: German (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: May 27, 2003
  • Run Time: 97 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008RH13
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,884 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Coup de Grace (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Doug Anderson VINE VOICE on August 7, 2007
Format: DVD
In the first shot we see Konrad and Erich running through the snow at midnight. They are both Prussian officers who have been reassigned to Konrad's ancestral home and though they arrive under a veil of mortar fire and flares, the mood is one of a midnight frolic between two lovers. When the two enter Konrads home they are greeted by what is left of Konrad's family as if they were two students who have been away at boarding school. And, although the home is a sprawling manor with wings of rooms stretching off in every direction, that night the two sleep in the same room in beds that are only a few feet apart. The next day Konrad tours the grounds of the estate with his sister Sophie and the way Schlondorff situates the two so naturally at one with the land we come to see that these ancestral lands have sacred connotations for these two. Each scene is immaculately composed and richly evocative as anything by Jean-Pierre Melville (Schlondorff dedicates the film to Melville) or Robert Bresson. Even though the film was actually made in 1976 Schlondorff elects to use black and white and the beauty of one black and white composition after another is simply stunning. Some of these compositions also recall some of Bergmans early films. After seeing his adaptations of Musil's Young Torless (1968) and now this adaptation of Yourcenar's Le Coup de Grace (1976) as well as the later Tin Drum (1979) it is clear to me that Volker Schlondorff is a master of the literary adaptation--he not only brings literary material to life (which is no easy feat for the richness of a narrative rarely translates well to screen) but with his carefully composed shots he often foregrounds things that may have been in the original text but that never caught our attention as they do when visualized.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
There is much to relish in this fine film, maybe the Director's finest. There is the rich and beautiful black and white compositions that invest every frame with considerable aesthetic power. There are fine performances from all - grave diggers, porters, villagers, revolutionaries, aristocrats. There is stunning direction - one instance is the scene where military officer Erich - the object of desire of Sophie - enters her bedroom with her at her dressing table only to find younger military officer Plessen standing at her bedside about to light a cigarette. We know from a previous scene, that Sophie prefers to makeup her face after lovemaking and it is almost a cinematic convention of old, that lovers light up post coitus. Plessen offers Erich a cigarette, just like the gentleman Plessen is, and just like the gentleman Erich is, he takes it. As this business carries on, the camera remains still, Sophie remains still, Plessen and Erich finally stand still - all the while we the audience see the reflection of the bed in the dressing table mirror LOOMING centre stage, infesting our minds with the wildest possible imaginings no amount of explicit goings on could replace. Silence is held as tension builds and builds and at the moment perfect Erich turns and exits.

It is set towards the beginning of the 20th century at a time when the world was convulsed with KIngs and Queens and those that profited thereby fighting off change; when Nationalism had poisoned the minds of millions; when revolution and world war had laid waste a generation of European men.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
After watching Volker Schlondorff's masterpiece The Tin Drum (Die Blechtrommel, 1979) from the Criterion Collection for the third time I decided to see more of his films. I started with the Ninth Day (Der neunte Tag, 2004) which illustrates the conflicts faced by a Catholic priest being held in the Dachau concentration camp. Then I saw two more Criterion releases: The Lost Honor of Katherina Blum (Die verlorene Ehre der Katherina Blum, 1975) and Young Torless (Der junge Torless,1966), both of which deal with themes linked to the Nazi rule of Germany in the 1930s and 40s, which tie them to The Tin Drum and the Ninth Day.
When I watched Coup de Grace (Der Fangschuss, 1978), a beautifully presented Criterion release, I didn't see the link to the other Schlondorff films. Coup de Grace is about the end of the Russian Civil War in 1919 Latvia. In a fascinating interview with Schlondorff and Margarethe von Trotta, the leading actress in Coup de Grace, they both explain in fluent French that many of the combatants returned to Germany to found the Nazi party.
Schlondorff worked as an assistant to many French directors in the early 1960s, including Louis Malle, Alain Resnais and Jean-Pierre Melville, to whom Coup de Grace is dedicated, and is a leader of the New German Cinema. The films listed in this review only scratch the surface. There are dozens of excellent Schlondorff films yet to be discovered.
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Format: DVD
My wife and I rented this film a year or so ago. Its an an absolutely haunting and beautiful film. Highly recommend it.

To the reviewer who wants to know why the Germans were there; most of the Baltic States (Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania) had large german populatiosn (most cities had German speaking majorities). In fact cities like Memel(Klapadia) and Riga were founded by Germans in the 1200 and 1300's under control of the Teutonic Knights. Even when muh of the area came under the Tsar's rule, the elite of the region remained the German noble and aristocrats. This film depicts the beginning of the end of this era after WWI when these areas gained independence from Russia. It came to a much sadder and bloodier end at the end of WWII when most Germans were expelled or murdered by the Soviets.
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