Produced shortly after the Second World War in Germany, In Those Days is a film about the lives of ordinary people in Germany during the lead up to and duration of the war. The story begins with two mechanics disassembling a car after the war, and continues when the car itself begins to narrate the events of its life, meaning that most of the film is told in flashback. This device, of an object narrating its own past, is an interesting one at best. While it does allow for a quite broad and neutral perspective toward history, it is a bit too strange to really convey the plot without distracting from it. The car in question is also far too overtly personified to act in the role of a reliable, neutral narrator, instead it seems to have a personality and human point of view. The narration leads into a series of flashbacks telling the story of successive owners of the car. A problematic aspect of this device is that the car changes owners in successive stories with little to no explanation about the change of ownership. Taking this with the fact that a few of the actors in the early sections of the movie look somewhat similar to one another and it leads to a very confusing early section of the movie. More than once it is quite possible to assume that one character is another from a previous vignette, only to realize that the character is merely portrayed by a similar looking actor. Eventually you begin to assume that characters appear in only one story, and just as this fact has made itself comfortable a character from an earlier story makes an appearance in a later one. The disconnected nature of the stories causes the film to read more as a series of vignettes, with the car as a loose unifying theme, than as a solid narrative. Unfortunately the stories vary extremely in their ability to entertain, or even hold interest. One story will be quite interesting and well paced, while the next will be slow, ill-paced, and quite frankly boring. One of the few areas in which this film does excel is in portraying the slow slippery slope of the Nazi rise to power. Each story moves its characters further into the restrictive policies of the Third Reich. At first it is simply a man fleeing the country, then a composer whose music has been banned, a Jewish woman whose store is destroyed.
All in all this film seems to be best considered a curiosity, a so-so movie centered on an interesting, though poorly executed, plot vehicle. An interesting viewing, but best left for the curious and historically interested.
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