Two fascinating movies – fascinating especially because they will seem so for-
eign to most Ameri-
can eyes – came to DVD two weeks back and are very much worth watching and ruminating over. Both deal with prison, in Germany and in Ar-
gentina, yet neither quite fits the term “prison movie,” al-
though LION’S DEN comes closer to that genre than does THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX.
Baader Meinhof deals with the RAF (no, not the UK’s Air Force but the Red Army Fac-
tion), a surprisingly popular (if the movie is to be believed, and in general and in many specifics, I think that it is) left-wing, radical terrorist group that came into being during the late 1960s and lasted into the 70s. The group, seemingly made up of as many wo-
men as men, bombed, kidnapped and as-
sassinated a number of important people and/or places across Europe. Its goal, a-
mong other things, was to stop West Ger-
many (where the RAF began) & Europe from assisting the USA in its useless and murderous Vietnam War, a good one so far as this re-
viewer is concerned. As usual, ends don’t always justify means.
|The Argentine film Lion's Den, on the other hand, features no performers you’ll probably have ever heard of -- which is all to the good as concerns making the movie seem realistic and documentary-|
like. In it, a young woman wakens in something of a stupor, looking bruised and bloodied; she showers, still in that stupor, and goes to work. Later, at her job, when her head begin to bleed, she
returns home to find her roommates dead and wounded. She calls the police, but with no suspects other than herself on tap, it’s off to prison with her.
From this point, the film -- directed by Pablo Trapero (shown at right, who made the very under-seen Rolling Family) -- becomes the story of the prisoner, Julia, beautifully played by Martina Gusman (below, center, and above on poster), beginning from a state of haziness then moving into anger, resignation and finally acceptance and growth. It turns out Julia has mother problems, and we meet that mother soon enough. Doing some kind of penance for her earlier abandonment of her daughter, mom ingratiates herself with the newly-found Julia, who herself is pregnant. Argentine law decrees that pregnant women prisoners can give birth and keep their children with them in prison up to the age of four. So we follow Julia and her cellblock-mates as they bond, raise their children together and become “family.”