A Woman With Responsibility
Germany 1978
16 mm
72 min


Ula Stöckl
Jutta Brückner
Mario Masini
Bernd Heindl
Peter Kayser
Michael Pils
Nello Pellegrini
Caesare Pellegrino
Ute Mayer-Martin
Annette Döring
Dagmar Rehmer
Brigitte Klug
Petra Kiener
Jörg Schneider
Beate Levertow
Eikon-Film/ ZDF
Wolfgang Hammerschmidt


Helga Birtner
Christina Scholz
Helgas Vater
Nikolaus Dutsch
Helgas Mann
Erwin Keusch
Hanna Burgwitz
Helgas Tante
Evi Hörbiger
in Paris

Francine Brücher
Helgas Freund
in Paris

Philippe Nahoun
Helgas Freundin
in Paris

Susanne Reitz

Festival Participation

28. Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin,
Neue Deutsche Reihe 1978
32. Edinburgh International Film Festival 1978
2. Irish Film Theatre Winter Festival, Dublin 1979
8. Film International Rotterdam 1979
1. Il Gocio dello Specchio, Firenze 1980
3. Festival International De Films De Femmes,
Sceaux/Paris 1981
Goethe Institut: Amsterdam 1980, Rom 1980, Neapel 1980


Since she was 12 years old Helga has always carried responsibility for others. She has never learnt that she also has a responsibility to look after herself. Her father divorced her mother, when it became clear that she was no longer willing to subordinate herself in the status quo. For her father and younger siblings Helga replaces seamlessly the role her mother once played. Until she leaves school, without anything to compare herself to, she finds this life "normal". Then she is allowed to go to Paris as an au pair. Her views change. She wants to stay in Paris. But she could only stay if she disobeyed her father, so she returns home.

Helga meets a man and becomes pregnant. Her father is opposed to her having an abortion and the young man wants to marry her. She doesn't want to get married or have the child, but finds no way of defending herself. Her own needs are viewed as "irrelevant". Yet again responsibility is viewed as something only relevant for others.
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Helga becomes rebellious only when shortly after the birth of her first child; she finds that she is pregnant again. The responsibility, which her father once had for her is transferred directly to her husband. Whereas her father's dominance would eventually have come to a natural end, her husband's control looks set to last her whole life. Helga resigns herself to her fate a third time.

But her suppressed and neglected needs gradually take their toll: physically Helga is with her family and gradually falls prey to illness: as a result of a compulsive cleaning obsession she becomes an invalid. Helga is only 22 years old.
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The film ends at this point and forces the audience to consider the importance of not sublimating one's own needs in the interest of responsibility for others. Helga's plight is not of her own doing. But there is also no one person in the film who is at fault.


01: "A Woman with Responsibility" is more of a description of a state of affairs than a call to arms or a political pamphlet. It is a cinematic direction, which is like a thread running through all aspects of this committed director ("of course I am directly affected by the individual topic, as I am in it up to my chin"). Film to give strength, film as a thorny path to self-discovery: whereas impatient feminists are all too ready to provide easy answers for their women characters, Ula Stöckl refuses to use second-hand models: "none of my films offer problems and solutions: everyone must decide for themselves how to make the right decision." Stöckl's ideas regarding individual responsibility get more concrete when she says "it is important that people recognize themselves in each situation."
Jörg Alisch, Der Abend, Berlin 16.06.1978
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02: This tender and loving film doesn't look for excuses. It rather calls for understanding and empathy.
Brigitte 22/1978
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03: Ula Stöckl depicts this shocking example of false upbringing and unfortunate environmental factors in a mixture of short scenes and wide shots, which are more complex and developed, without the result ever being hectic or over-dramatic. She illustrates how human habits can become ends in themselves. And how things taken for granted can have an unhealthy habit of talking over and can eventually destroy life and all joie de vivre.
Volker Baer, Der Tagesspiegel, 17.06.1978
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04: Ula Stöckl has told this tale of the destruction of youth with her very own feeling for emotionless family situations. What is striking is the complete absence of anger: no one is aggressive, not to mention hateful. The father is loving - but admonishes his sensitive daughter in such a dry and Victorian manner, that she quietly learns very early that she must suppress her own needs. The mother in law is sensible and warm-hearted, the husband tolerant - and yet we understand the complete absence of feeling which the young woman experiences. A film full of dreams.
Ponkie, MÜnchner Abendzeitung, 11.10.1978
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This tender and loving film doesn't look for excuses. It rather calls for understanding and empathy.
Brigitte 22/1978