Doris DÖrrie - Director

Nationality: German. Born: Hanover, West Germany, 26 May 1955. Family: Married to cinematographer Helge Weindler. Education: Studied theater at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California; philosophy, psychology, and semantics at the New School for Social Research in New York; and film and television at the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen in Munich, where she received a diploma in directing. Career: Wrote film criticism for Süddeutsche Zeitung , 1976–86; directed documentaries for German television, 1979–86; directed her first feature, Straight through the Heart , 1983. Awards: Max Ophuls Award nomination and Max Ophuls Audience Award, for Mitten ins herz ( Straight through the Heart ), 1983; Bavarian Film Award, Best Screenplay, for Bin ich schön? ( Am I Beautiful? ), 1998. Address: Tengstrasse 16, 8000 Munich 40, Germany. Agent: ICM, 40 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019.

Films as Director and Screenwriter/Co-Screenwriter:


Ob's stürmt oder schneit ( Come Rain or Shine ) (co-d)


Ene, mene, mink (short)


Der erste walzer ( The First Waltz ) (short); Hättest was gescheites gelernt (for TV); Alt werden in der Fremde


Paula aus Portugal


Von romantik keine spur ( No Trace of Romanticism ) (for TV); Katharina Eiselt


Dazwischen ( In Between ) (co-d)


Mitten ins herz ( Straight through the Heart )


Im innern des wals ( In the Belly of the Whale )


Männer . . . ( Men . . . ); Paradies ( Paradise )


Ich und er ( Me and Him )


Geld (Money); Love in Germany


Happy Birthday Türke! ( Happy Birthday! )


What Can It Be


Keiner Liebt Mich ( Nobody Loves Me )


Bin ich schün? ( Am I Beautiful? )


Erleuchtung garantiert ( Enlightenment Guaranteed )



Der hauptdarsteller (Hauff) (ro)


King Kongs Faust (Stadler) (ro)


Wann—wenn nicht jetzt? (Juncker—for TV) (sc)


By DÖRRIE: books—

Was wollen sie von mir?: und 15 andere Geschichten , Zurich, 1987; published as What Do You Want from Me?: And Fifteen Other Stories , translated by John E. Woods, New York, 1991.

Liebe, Schmerz und das ganze verdammte Zung: vier Geschichten , Zurich, 1989; published as Love, Pain, and the Whole Damn Thing: Four Stories , New York, 1989.

Der Mann menier Träume: Erzählung , Zurich, 1991.

Für immer und ewig: enie Art Reigen , Zurich, 1991.

With Volker Wach, Love in Germany: Deutsche Paare im Gespräch mit Doris Dörrie , Zurich, 1992.

Bin ich schoen: Erzahlungen , Zurich, 1994.

Samsara: Erzählungen , Zurich, 1996.

Lotte Will Prinzessin Sein , Ravensburg, 1998; published as Lottie's Princess Dress , New York, 1999.

Look at Me (text accompanying photographs by Philip Keel), Zurich and New York, 1999.

Doris Dörrie with Jack Sholder
Doris Dörrie with Jack Sholder

By DÖRRIE: articles—

"Interview with Doris Dörrie," interview with Scott Bradfield, in Elle (New York), June 1991.

Interview in Short Story (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Brownsville, Texas), Fall 1994.

On DÖRRIE: articles—

Pally, Marcia, "Open Dörrie," in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1986.

Diehl, S., "Doris Dörrie: The Women behind Men. . . ," in World Press Review , October 1986.

Root, Jane, " In the Belly of the Whale and Sharing Flats with Men: Doris Dörrie Discusses Her Researches with Jane Root," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), November 1986.

Haskell, Molly, "Doris Dörrie: More Realist than Feminist," in Vogue (New York), December 1986.

Glass, Erlis, "Der Mann meiner Traume," in World Literature Today , vol. 67, no. 1, Winter 1993.

Angier, Carole, "Monitoring Conformity: The Career of Doris Dörrie," essay in Women and Film: A Sight and Sound Reader , edited by Pam Cook, Philip Dodd, Philadelphia, 1993.

Joyner, Will, "A Wake-up Call for the Germans," in New York Times , 29 October 1995.

* * *

Doris Dörrie's most consistent cinematic themes are sexual politics and the chasms existing between men and women. In her films, it almost is as if the opposite sexes have evolved from different species. Women are looking for emotional honesty and sexual pleasure in relationships, and attempt to connect with men in what are fated to be hapless, luckless searches for everlasting love. Men, on the other hand, are emotionally unavailable. They are obsessed with the power of their sex organs, yet become sexually unresponsive once they are married (or, for that matter, regularly sharing the same bed with the woman they have so ardently pursued). Dörrie's heroines may be unable to break through to the men in their midst, but they are not perfect either. They might be flaky or self-absorbed, and this adds resonance to her work. Furthermore, Dörrie's films are consistently offbeat. Her characters in the best of them, while existing in real worlds and facing genuine emotional dilemmas, respond to situations in altogether humorous, original, and unusual ways.

Men . . . , Dörrie's biggest hit to date, is a razor-sharp feminist satire. It is a farcical portrait of the manner in which a pompous middle-class married man responds upon learning that he is being cheated on by his sexually ignored wife. By having this affair, she has struck a blow for independence after years of devotion to a womanizing husband. An outlandish scenario unfolds, involving the cuckold befriending his wife's lover and transforming him into a clone of himself, knowing full well that his wife summarily will become bored. Men . . . is an astute portrayal of the casual attitudes many men have toward women and the manner in which men view each other, all filtered through the sensibilities of a woman writer/director.

Unfortunately, Dörrie has been unable to repeat the international box office success and win the critical raves achieved by Men. . . . Me and Him , her follow-up to Men . . . was a major let-down: a stupefyingly unfunny parody—based, no less, on a novel by Alberto Moravia—about an architect whose penis begins offering him guidance on how to live his life. In In the Belly of the Whale and Paradise , Dörrie repeats the plot structure of Men . . . : a third party comes to play a key role in a less-than-sound two-person, opposite-sex familial relationship. The cornerstone of In the Belly of the Whale is the sadomasochistic connection between a fifteen-year-old girl and her policeman father. The girl runs away in search of her mother (who also was physically abused by her father), and becomes involved with a young man who previously had conflicted with the father. Paradise is the story of a married couple who are more concerned with their hobbies and professions than with each other; furthermore, the husband is disinterested in satisfying the wife sexually. The third party here is the wife's former schoolmate.

Men . . . , however, is far from Dörrie's lone artistic success. Straight through the Heart , her debut feature (completed after working for German television and making shorts and documentaries), is a sharply observed exploration of the relationship between a pair of lonely neurotics: a 20-year-old woman seeking her identity and a reclusive middle-aged dentist. While the latter is willing to pay the former to move in with him, he offers her no companionship; he is interested solely in a lively female presence in his life. She becomes psychologically connected to him, but is unsuccessful in her attempt to make him love her.

In Happy Birthday, Turke! , an entertaining noirish detective film (as well as Dörrie's one major thematic departure), the filmmaker touches on the issue of ethnic identity. It is the story of a Turkish-born private eye who was raised by German parents and speaks only German; as a result, he is mistrusted by the Turkish community and subjected to ethnic slurs by Germans. He is hired by a Turkish woman to locate her missing husband, and becomes immersed in a scenario involving murder, prostitution, and police corruption.

Nobody Loves Me is a quirky chronicle of the trials of a lonely, death-obsessed airport security officer who is about to turn 30 and senses that life is passing her by. She declares she does not need a man, but still is desperate to find one. Her gay next-door neighbor (who is a psychic, as well as her kindred spirit) declares that she momentarily will meet the love of her life. Could he be the new manager of their apartment building, whose primary interests are seducing attractive young blondes and the compensation to be gained by redoing the building into an extravagant living space?

In the end, Dörrie's heroine is left only with the companionship of her neighbor. One of the points of Nobody Loves Me is that, within the framework of heterosexual relations, it nearly is impossible for a man and a woman to be friends. In fact, the only male who can express compassion and remain loyal to a woman is a gay male; the emotional honesty that exists between the heroine and her neighbor is able to flourish because of the absence of sexual expectation.

In the films from the first decade of Dörrie's career, the heterosexual men do not change. But the women evolve. The heroines in Straight through the Heart and Nobody Loves Me each may be unsuccessful in their quests for love. In the former, the result is tragedy, while in the latter the heroine undergoes a transformation, becoming less self-indulgent and more independent. This is her triumph, and it is one that reflects the evolution of Dörrie's view of the plight and fate of women.

Dörrie's most recent film, Am I Beautiful? , is as incisive as Nobody Loves Me , while offering a more expansive view of humanity. Its story is reminiscent of Robert Altman's Short Cuts in that it spotlights encounters between strangers who collectively are kind, or cruel, or manipulative, and who come together, clash, and drift apart. They include a young woman who is hitchhiking and playing at being deaf because she wishes to change her destiny; an elderly man who was married for 40 years and whose wife died three days earlier; a woman who obsessively tries on wedding dresses, in preparation for her own nuptials (which may or may not ever happen); and a woman who meets the man with whom she was in love three decades before. He, in turn, does not remember her, because he has just had a stroke.

All the characters seemingly are unrelated, but the film takes on a surreal quality as their connections, however tenuous, eventually emerge: they are in the same family, or share the same profession, or have the same life experience. More to the point, however, they are lonely, and have unfulfilled needs and desires. They are depicted as wanting to be married, or getting married, or at mid-marriage (where they often are bored and unhappy, and involved in affairs), or recently widowed.

Am I Beautiful? is a mature film, a philosophical film. As she herself ages, Dörrie seems to be increasingly aware of the passage of time, and the fleetingness of life. One of her points in Am I Beautiful? is that you may not know what your future will be, and for this reason it takes courage to live—and to love.

—Rob Edelman

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