Saturday, December 19, 2020

Jeanine Meerapfel's MY GERMAN FRIEND: See an excellent, undiscovered film from 2012

It is possible that, despite the current pandemic's making the making of movies more difficult, the flip side of this is that a number of older films, earlier passed over for any kind of international distribution, are now getting their chance to shine -- even if tardily. On the basis of how intelligent, unusually put together, and ever-timely is the newly released movie titled MY GERMAN FRIEND, I would say that, as is often the case when bad things happen, there can be an occasional surprising and worthwhile upside.

Written and directed by Jeanine Meerapfel (shown at left), the movie tracks, beginning in the 1950s, the hugely changing relationship between childhood friends who live just across the street from each other: Friedrich Burg, the son of German Nazis relocated post-war to Argentina, and Sulamit Löwenstein, daughter of well-to-do Jews fleeing Europe for Argentina to escape the Holocaust. 

We're with Sulamit and Friedrich as young children, adolescents, older students and finally adults (Celeste Cid, below, right, and Max Riemelt, below, left). The two have loved and cared for each other all along the way, and yet their paths toward adulthood -- including career, philosophy, priorities -- could hardly have been more different. 

By refusing to take sides but instead showing us how each of her protagonists thinks and feels and thus why they behave in the ways they do, Ms Meerapfel is able to give us a wonderfully expansive and very real love story, without for a change slighting the necessary themes -- politics, protest, history, economics, education, rebellion (and its consequences), even feminism -- that should figure (but so seldom do) into any genuine love story. (Think of this one as The Way We Were, but set in Argentina and Germany, and without all the soap suds.)

The film begins on a train as Sulamit makes her way toward... something, though we don't yet know what. We only learn this as the movie is more than halfway along, as the present moves to the past, catches up again, and plows onward. 

My German Friend
is indeed a love story, but it is one that offers so much more than simple romance, a little lust and some feel-good filler. It shows us different forms of love and how help and support figure into all this. 

And if the filmmaker will win no awards for style and/or breaking new ground, she should win a few for showing us life's broader perspective that include what is going on in our world politically, economically, culturally, and freedom/repression-wise. 

By the time of Meerapfel's lovely conclusion -- in which anything simple-minded or obvious has no role -- we are made to realize that love is in ongoing thing in which small battles must be fought, won or allowed to be lost in order to keep the relationship healthy. This movie is a small-but-genuine "find."

From Corinth Films -- which has been giving us a lot of lesser-known but very-much-worth-viewing attractions -- in German and Spanish (with English subtitles) and running 104 minutes, My German Friend hit DVD and streaming earlier this week -- for purchase and/or rental. Amazon Prime members can watch it free of charge.

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