A new crop of films dealing with Germany’s wartime demons is emerging. Since these movies have different origins, they hardly constitute a wave or movement but they do, perhaps, indicate a collective desire to reinvestigate the cataclysm, not least for the three generations of moviegoers born since 1945.
Currently in American theaters, the German-Australian “Lore,” directed by Cate Shortland (“Somersault”), vividly depicts the perilous journey of the eponymous adolescent, a Hitler Youth, as she leads her younger siblings across Germany in the wake of the Führer’s suicide and Germany’s defeat.
Her S.S. officer father and Nazi mother having been arrested, Lore (remarkable newcomer Saskia Rosendahl) is helped by a young Jewish man (Kai-Peter Malina) who has escaped from Auschwitz; her conflicted desire for him coincides with her realization, based on the horrors she sees, that the ideology she has been spoonfed was evil. The film was based on one of the three stories comprising British novelist Rachel Seiffert’s novel “The Dark Room.”
The background for the upcoming Fox 2000 film “The Book Thief,” based on the novel by the Australian author Markus Zusak, is the deportation of Jews to Dachau and the bombing of the Bavarian town of Olching (“Molching” in the book), 12 miles from Munich.
The movie will be directed by Brian Percival, whose credits include six episodes of “Downton Abbey.” Whether the novel’s narrator, Death, will be personified in the story remains to be seen. The protagonist is a young girl, Liesel Meminger (to be played by French-Canadian Sophie Nelisse), an inveterate reader and purloiner of books.
The daughter of Communist sympathizers, she is fostered out to housepainter Hans Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush) and his wife Rosa (Emily Watson). When Hans conceals a 24-year-old Jewish refugee, Max, in his basement, he writes and illustrates a story for her birthday. The two bond and she begins to write herself. Tragedy, inevitably, strikes.
Variety reported earlier today that Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam has boarded the film and will host the production, which will also be filmed on location in nearby Berlin, in the state of Brandenburg, and in the Saxon city of Görlitz. One of the producers, the Irish baron Redmond Morris, was also behind Stephen Daldry’s “The Reader” (2008), adapted by David Hare from the Bernhard Schlink novel. Kate Winslet won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a former S.S. guard responsible for allowing 300 Jewish women to perish in a fire in a locked church in a satellite camp of Auschwitz.
“Barbara” director Christian Petzold is meanwhile reteaming with actress Nina Hoss for the sixth time on “Phoenix,” described by Variety as the story of a “death camp survivor who returns to the demolished German capital after the war.” “Barbara”’s Ronald Zehrfeld will co-star.
Finally, George Clooney has assembled an impressive cast for “The Monuments Men,” which ARTINFO reported on in detail in January last year. Based on Robert M. Edsel’s non-fiction book “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History,” the thriller is about the group of art experts and museum curators assembled to rescue the art masterworks stolen by Göring, Goebbels, and other Nazi leaders.
Clooney’s movie may or may not be in line with films in the Vergangenheitsbewältigung subgenre – those entailing the process by which Germany comes to terms with its past. However, it could well turn out to be a fascinating analogue to Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.”