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Germany, 2012, 118 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Drama, Historical/Period, War
Program: Contemporary World CinemaLanguage: German English Subtitles
DIRECTOR: Philipp Kadelbach
Producer: Benjamin Benedict, Nico Hofmann, Jürgen SchusterEditor: Bernd SchlegelScreenwriter: Stefan KolditzCinematographer: David SlamaPrincipal Cast: Volker Bruch, Tom Schilling, Katharina Schuttler, Miriam Stein, Ludwig Trepte, Mark Waschke
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There’s gregarious Greta, the would-be starlet, clearly thrilled to be serving her country as a nurse in a field hospital. Friedhelm, the sensitive one, and his older brother, Wilhelm, the responsible, take-charge type—both soldiers on their way to the front. And then there’s Viktor, who comes by his brooding honestly—he is, after all, a Jew in wartime Berlin.
Granted, when we meet these five young men and women, inseparable since childhood, they’re still full of hope for a bright—or at least normal—future. It’s 1941. By 1942 they will know better. And by 1945 they will have been torn apart.
For all its harrowing drama, this three-part epic, which aired as a miniseries on German television, turns on a meditation about guilt and innocence. At nearly every moment, our protagonists are faced with choices between complicity and rebellion, self-preservation and self-sacrifice, blood on their hands and love in their hearts—only to discover the deceptive nature of such seemingly black-and-white propositions.
In his author’s note, screenwriter Stefan Kolditz observes that the vast majority of an entire generation of Germans was not so easily categorized as “perpetrators or victims … heroic resistance fighters or fanatic Nazis,” adding the question that underlies the entire project: “Are we ourselves really so different?” The remarkable result, directed by Philipp Kadelbach, took eight years to make. Nearly 150 sets were constructed in Germany, Lithuania, and Latvia, and more than 150 hours of footage was edited down to the final six. Not a frame will be wasted on the viewer who prepares to confront his or her own reflection.
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