I’m a big fan of war/war related films and documentaries, especially anything related to Germany and the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s; not so much about specific battles themselves (although the fall of Berlin is such an intense and key battle of course) but all the “social” side of the how the Third Reich came about and was perpetuated and its end result on German, indeed, world, history.
Whilst there are a great number of films about the fall of Germany in 1945 (Der Untergang, The Downfall springs to mind) there’s not so much “out there” about the repercussions of the war on the German citizens after the war, neither in film or in documentary. However, one such film that does address this is Germany Pale Mother (Deutschland Bleiche Mutter) which I remember seeing many years ago (in the early 1990s I think, although the film itself is from 1980), so I was pleased to see that the British Film Institute (hereafter referred to as the BFI) are about to release it on DVD and Blu Ray and knowing the BFI would be remastered and of the highest possible “quality”, as are all their releases.
The film is cast during and after the Third Reich era and tells a tale of love and war. The film is based on the life of director Helma Sanders Brahms’ mother and explores the devastating effect of war on the individuals in the story, both in practical and psychological terms within the family structure.
In 1939 Germany Hans and Lene get married the day before the war breaks out with Germany invading Poland. Hans, not unsurprisingly, is conscripted and sent to fight for the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. Sometime later, during an Allied bombing raid Lene gives birth to their daughter Anna and as the house is destroyed by the bombs she opts to move in with some of her relatives in Berlin. Hans survives the war and returns to Berlin to see his wife and daughter but finds it difficult to adjust back to “normal” life and this film explores the impact of that on families and personal relationships and the resulting consequences.
The film was not well received at first release and the critics rather slated it (in my experience a film the critics slate can often be a film I like!) but over the years it has become acknowledged as something of a neglected classic; thanks in part, in my opinion, due to it being one of the few films dealing in this specific era/genre. The original film release was 130 minutes long due to a heavy hand in “chopping and cutting”, presumably due to German censorship? The BFI DVD release is 146 minutes and the Blu Ray 152 minutes. Not having seen the original, the DVD and the Blu Ray I’m not sure what was originally cut. So presumably the film is now on display (on the Blu Ray at least I guess) in all its “glory”.
A couple of small words of warning. Although the film is a 15, there are “references” to suicide and sexual violence. Also the film, to some people, would seem “a bit grim”, but let’s be fair it’s a grim subject. The acting is superb and overall it’s a film I would buy for my own personal collection and I’m a “picky” person when it comes to “keepers” as oppose to “watch it once and flog it off on eBay”.
I give it 9 out of 10.