Heller Wahn

Sheer Madness
Ruth, a sensitive artist and wife of well-known peace researcher Franz, is afraid of people and already has several suicide attempts behind her. Olga, a lecturer in literature and wife of successful theatre director Dieter, meets Ruth at a friend’s place in Provence. The two women meet again in Berlin and get to know each other. Their husbands react angrily. Franz needs Ruth so that he can protect her; Olga’s role is to listen to Dieter’s problems as a director. Franz’s jealousy grows and provokes Ruth to another attempt at taking her life. On a lecture tour to Cairo with Olga, Ruth overcomes her depression. When Franz senses that Ruth has changed and has become even more attached to Olga, he cannot control his jealousy.
Margarethe von Trotta’s fifth directorial work, which premiered at the Berlinale in 1982, is an exemplary exploration of hidden power relations in relationships between men and women. With great patience, the film analyses the irritations and aggressions with which female self-assertion is repeatedly confronted.
by Margarethe von Trotta
with Hanna Schygulla, Angela Winkler, Peter Striebeck, Christine Fersen, Franz Buchrieser, Wladimir Yordanoff, Agnes Fink, Felix Moeller, Jochen Striebeck, Therese Affolter
Germany 1983 German 105’ Colour Rating R16


  • Hanna Schygulla (Olga)
  • Angela Winkler (Ruth)
  • Peter Striebeck (Franz)
  • Christine Fersen (Erika)
  • Franz Buchrieser (Dieter)
  • Wladimir Yordanoff (Alexaj)
  • Agnes Fink (Ruth's Mother)
  • Felix Moeller (Christof)
  • Jochen Striebeck (Bruno)
  • Therese Affolter (Renate)


Written and Directed by Margarethe von Trotta
Cinematography Michael Ballhaus
Editing Dagmar Hirtz
Music Nicolas Economou
Sound Vladimir Vizner
Production Design Jürgen Henze, Werner Mink
Costumes Monika Hasse
Make-Up Annie Habans, Bernd-Rüdiger Knoll, Anni Nöbauer
Assistant Directors Helenka Hummel, Osman Salim
Production Managers Gerhard von Halem, Régis Wargnier, Ahmed Sami
Producers Eberhard Junkersdorf, Margaret Ménégoz

Produced by


Margarethe von Trotta

Born in Berlin, Germany in 1942, she studied German and Romance languages in Munich and Paris and acting in Munich. She worked as a theatre and film actor for Fassbinder, Achternbusch and Schlöndorff, with whom she also collaborated as a screenwriter and co-director. She made her own directing debut in 1977 with Das zweite Erwachen der Christa Klages. Her films Die bleierne Zeit (1982), Heller Wahn (1983), L’africana (1991), Das Versprechen (1995), Rosenstraße (2004) and Die abhandene Welt (2015) all screened at the Berlinale.

Filmography (selection, as director)

1975 Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum · Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum 1978 Das zweite Erwachen der Christa Klages · Das zweite Erwachen der Christa Klages 1979 Schwestern oder Die Balance des Glücks · Schwestern oder Die Balance des Glücks 1981 Die bleierne Zeit · Die bleierne Zeit 1983 Heller Wahn · Heller Wahn 1985 Rosa Luxemburg · Rosa Luxemburg 1987 Felix · Felix 1988 Paura e amore (Fürchten und Lieben) · Paura e amore (Fürchten und Lieben) 1990 L'africana (Die Rückkehr) · L'africana (Die Rückkehr) 1993 Il lungo silenzio (Zeit des Zorns) · Il lungo silenzio (Zeit des Zorns) 1994 Das Versprechen · Das Versprechen 1997 Winterkind · Winterkind · Lulu · Lulu 1998 Dunkle Tage · Dunkle Tage · Mit fünzig küssen Männer anders · Mit fünzig küssen Männer anders 1999 Jahrestage · Jahrestage 2003 Rosenstraße · Rosenstraße · Die andere Frau · Die andere Frau 2005 Ich bin die Andere · Ich bin die Andere 2006 Tatort · Tatort 2007 Vision - Aus dem Leben der Hildegard von Bingen · Vision - Aus dem Leben der Hildegard von Bingen 2009 Die Schwester · Die Schwester 2010 Mai per amore · Mai per amore 2013 Hannah Ahrendt · Hannah Ahrendt 2014 Die abhandene Welt · Die abhandene Welt 2017 Forget About Nick 2018 Auf der Suche nach Ingmar Bergman

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2020