Austrian poet seeks solace from gender roles in Berlinale biopic

By Miranda Murray

BERLIN (Reuters) - For German director Margarethe von Trotta, "Ingeborg Bachmann - Journey into the Desert," chronicling six years of the titular Austrian poet's life, is part of a dialogue with the past about how life for women has changed and how much they have achieved.

"Bachmann's search for liberty and freedom - she said 'I cannot be subjugated by men' - what she was searching for, we have achieved now," said von Trotta of the poet and author, who rose to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s.

"She arrives in the desert very weak ... and in the end she says it's her salvation, I'm liberated," said von Trotta.

The film is in line with von Trotta's previous work, which focuses on strong female historical figures such as thinker Hannah Arendt and activist Rosa Luxemburg, cementing her status as one of the world's top feminist film-makers.

Born in Berlin, she began working as an actor in the late 1960s before moving into directing, making her first solo debut in 1977.

"Ingeborg Bachmann", which premiered on Sunday at the Berlin Film Festival, where it is in competition for the top prize, tells the tumultuous real-life relationship between Bachmann, wonderfully embodied by actor Vicky Krieps, and Swiss playwright Max Frisch, portrayed by Ronald Zehrfeld.

A love story told in non-chronological order, the film flashes between their first meeting in Paris to Bachmann's retreat to the desert in Egypt after their break-up, creating a portrait of a woman who desires intimacy but finds relationship expectations of the time stifling.

(Reporting by Miranda Murray; Editing by David Holmes)