Arcangela Felice Assunta Wertm�ller von Elgg Spanol von Braueich was born 14 August 1928 in Rome. Of Swiss heritage, she is the product of Federico Wertm�ller and Maria Santa Maria Wertm�ller, a horribly mismatched couple who lived "a hell of a life," and split up after fifty years of marriage.
Wertm�ller (who somewhere along the lines grew tired of her lengthy name and shortened it to "Lina") had a discipline problem as a child and was supposedly thrown out of fifteen Roman Catholic schools. She was reared in an anti-Fascist household and can recall a time in her childhood during which her parents "hid a family of Jews for five months."
After World War II, having obtained a teaching credential, Wertm�ller was urged by her father to go to Law School and by her best friend to try the theater. She simultaneously enrolled in Law School and Drama School, and quickly developed a passion for theater and performance, and abandoned law. Upon graduation in 1951, Wertm�ller and some friends established a modernist theater company. It flopped, and Wertm�ller then toured with a puppet company, doing bizarre adaptations of Kafka for childrens' shows. Wertm�ller's career began when she landed the job of assistant director on Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 and was "totally enlightened by his personality." This experience paved the way for Wertm�ller's own debut as a film director - The Lizards (1963). She made it with the crew of 8 1/2 and with financial backing partly raised by Fellini.
Since then, she has been able to produce the films she wants with relative ease, has arrived on the international cinema scene, and has been written about in more or less conflicting detail. Feminist controversy and critical ambivalence surround her films due to their shockingly overt themes of gender domination. It has been said that Wertm�ller "is not only a female woman-hater...but a woman-hater who pretends to be a feminist." The men in her films are typically portrayed as stupid, vain, and sexist, while the women are seen as soulless, devouring bitches. Wertm�ller has been described as a nervous wreck on her film sets, but in total command of the cast, the crew, and the overall production of the film. She herself says that her aim is to generate excitement and provoke thought.