Conflict zone

German films 24 Weeks and Alone in Berlin could well be top Golden Bear contenders

Conflict zone
Two German films, one dealing with a real story from the country’s Nazi past and the other on the subject of abortion, will keep the Meryl Streep-led jury tied up in knots when they sit down to discuss the awards in the next few days.

24 Weeks, the sophomore oeuvre of Zohra Berrached deals with the conflict of a woman confronted with an extreme situation— she must choose between life and death for her unborn child. Stand-up comedian Astrid, known for her ready wit and joie de vivre is pregnant and an ultra sound scan suggests that the baby may be born with Down syndrome. The husband and wife decide to keep the baby and just when they are getting ready to accept the reality when another scan on the 24th week reveals another serious complication in the foetus — a heart problem that may involve a few surgeries starting from the first week itself. And the child will continue to suffer.

The film portrays a situation where taking a strong stand is the only option and the final decision is left to the mother as she is carrying the baby. To bring out the emotions in all their rawness, Zohra mixed actors and real life characters together, merging the documentary style of filmmaking with fictional cinema.

“The doctors giving advice to Astrid are real medical specialists and the scan is also real. After I spent several hours interviewing a couple that made the decision to abort in the 26th week, it seemed to me that working on a purely fictional basis would be too trivial,” said the director.

The other film, Alone in Berlin, is a powerfully moving, true-life drama-thriller set in Second World War Berlin, directed by acclaimed actor turned filmmaker Vincent Perez based on Every Man Dies Alone/Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada.

Based on actual Gestapo files given to him by a novelist friend just after the war, Fallada’s remarkable novel tells the story of Otto and Anna Quangel a working class couple in Berlin who have lost their only son in war. They decide to wage a two-person war by writing postcards with seditious messages, urging fellow Germans to stand up to Hitler’s Nazi party, then leaving them in public places to be read.

Brendan Gleeson who stars as Otto Quangel said, “They’re totally ordinary. It’s about personal redemption and the idea that by withdrawing your support, you liberate yourself, even if it makes absolutely no difference to anything else. It’s part of the human quest.”

Producer Arndt added, “When I started producing films, I swore I would never do a movie with Nazi uniforms because it’s too easy for a German filmmaker to decide the antagonist is a Nazi,” he states. “I thought there are enough Nazi movies around, so I never wanted to do any.” But Alone in Berlin was compelling and different from other movies on Nazi history.

Oscar winner Emma Thompson and Gleeson remarkably portray the sorrow of the parents who have lost their only child, and their resoluteness to do what they can to resist the regime perpetrating suffering and war on its people and others.

Really, we need to keep on revisiting history to ensure that we do not commit the same mistakes of the past and to draw inspiration from people who resisted atrocities with their own lives.

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