Many legends about Romy Schneider arose even during her lifetime. 40 years after the death of the film icon, a documentary film shown in Cannes sheds light on the star.
Sometimes in the dirndl like the playful Duchess of Bavaria, who roams the hunting ground with “Babyle”. Then tan and thirsty for love in a light black bikini by the pool: portraits of a great artist and a woman with many wonderful faces. Less than 14 years have passed between the recordings, and yet they are two separate worlds.
“Romy, femme libre” is the name of the documentary presented at this year’s Cannes Film Festival to mark the 40th anniversary of Romy Schneider’s death. It depicts a brave, assertive, and free woman who made independence as personal as it was artistic, at a time when women’s financial and sexual autonomy were still the subject of societal debate.
Directors Lucy Carries and Clementine Derudel completed the One Hundred and Eighty Degrees cycle with their documentary. Her image contrasts with that of Romy Schneider, who is often shown as a fragile international star and a victim of her own destiny. She was a “free electron,” Derudel explains, and wasn’t afraid to give up everything to start over.
Nobody was waiting for her in Paris
Like in 1958, when Romy Schneider left Germany at the height of her career to follow Alain Delon to Paris. Dirudel asserts that she left her homeland, where she was more than just a star, while no one was waiting for her in Paris. In her outburst of anger, she antagonized the German press, which saw this as a kind of betrayal of her successful film “Sisi”. But Schneider has long wanted to abandon the image of the princess, which, in her words, was associated with her like a “semolina pudding”.
In addition, she was in a relationship with a Frenchman of all people. Romy Schneider met and fell in love with the unknown young beau Alain Delon while filming “Christine”. She was only twenty years old. After a stormy five-year relationship, the busy playboy left the actress. She cut her wrists, but she was taken to the hospital in time.
One tragedy follows the next
She was also brave and assertive in the mid-1960s when she returned to Germany due to director and actor 14-year-old Harry Mayne, father of her son David. In order to be able to marry him in 1966, she paid for his divorce and was branded an adultery in the German press. Another scandal. She met Mayne in Berlin in 1966 when her stepfather, Hans Herbert Platzheim, opened a new restaurant.
In 1973 the couple divorced. Romy Schneider paid Maine terrible compensation and moved to France with their son. About six years later, Maine committed suicide.
Then Romy Schneider began her own life again in Paris: this time with her secretary, Danielle Biacini, who was eleven years her junior and whom she held with her in December 1975. Their daughter Sarah was born two years later. But this marriage also collapsed.
Your son loses his life
She loved, tempted and suffered – in life as well as on screen. Romy Schneider has acted in more than 60 films and worked with the industry’s greatest films such as Luchino Visconti, Claude Sautet, Bertrand Tavernier and Costa-Gavras. After working her way into German hearts as Empress of Austria Elisabeth in “Sisi” as a teenager, the crown becomes a burden to her. She broke the stereotype of the naive and carefree child woman. In France, she became a “female killer” with films such as “The Swimming Pool”, “Incest” and “The Other’s Lover”.
Her last movie was “The Stroller from Sans-Souci”. She called it after the biggest drama of her life. In the summer of 1981, their son David, 14, was impaled with metal nails while trying to climb a fence and died.
In the film she plays a woman who takes care of a Jewish boy. When asked where she got the strength to film with a boy about the same age shortly after David’s death, she replied, “I knew there were going to be painful moments, not just because of some of the sequences, but because my job is so hard.”
“Everything simple bores me”
Her death on May 29, 1982 at the age of 43 will likely remain a mystery. Her partner at the time, French film producer Laurent Pettin, found the actress overwhelmed in her office early in the morning. Heart failure was the official cause of death. Next to it was an incomplete handwritten letter.
Suicide rumors initially spread because Schneider’s excessive consumption of alcohol, sleeping pills, and stimulants was known. An autopsy was not carried out in order not to destroy the legend, as the French press believed at that time. Directors Dirudel and Karis, whose film is exclusively based on archival materials, do not believe in the theory of suicide. It reminds us of the sentence Romy Schneider said in French: “Don’t make it easy for me”—everything simple bores me.