Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Novemberkind was the opening offering of the recent German Film Festival - which was staged to celebrate twenty years since the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. We went to the second night - apparently the first night at the Embassy was almost full. A pity, then, that the opening night crowd was subjected to such a depressing film. Not a bad film, but definitely depressing.

Novemberkind is set in roughly present-day Malchow, in what used to be East Germany. The central character of the film is Inga, a young woman who has been brought up by her grandparents believing that her Mother drowned when she was a baby. One day a slightly creepy older man called Robert (who is a professor of literature from Konstanz in what used to be West Germany) comes into the library in which she works and engages her in conversation and ends up taking her out for dinner. It emerges that Robert knew Inga's Mother and in fact she attended a writing course of his in Konstanz. So then a voyage of personal discovery begins for Inga, about what actually happened to her Mother and Father, and the audience is taken along for the ride.

The story is played very straight. As Inga makes discoveries we see the events as flashbacks, with the same actress that plays Inga playing her Mother. We never really know how she feels about her discoveries - we can only interpret from her interactions with other character in the film. There are no voice-overs, and no intimate chats with friends about what she's thinking. Robert the literature professor lurks in the background and we never get over the feeling he is just a creepy voyeur using Inga's plight as fodder for his next novel.

I think the film's raison d'etre is an illustration of the impact of Germany's East/West divide on the lives of individuals - in this case, Inga, Inga's parents, Inga's grandparents, and a Russian soldier Inga's Mother meets when Inga is a baby. If this is the case, it certainly achieves it's aim. For the audience, it's a bit of a harrowing ride,and as Ian points out, when it reaches it's conclusion there aren't many other options left. The unfolding of the plot is what makes the film interesting so I won't discuss it except to say that once Inga finds out that her Mother didn't drown 25 years ago but escaped to West Germany the big question is How could a Mother abandon her baby? And you'll have to watch the film to find out the detail, but the answer to the big question is that she couldn't.

I thought this was quite a powerful film and somewhat harrowing. I wasn't uplifted and so I hesitate to recommend it, but I wasn't bored.

Anne's rating 2.5/5 Ian's rating 2/5

No comments:

Post a Comment