The young German POW Mark Niebuhr, a former rifleman of an infantry battalion, arrives on a train at the Warsaw depot in October 1945. A Polish woman believes to have recognized him as the SS officer who murdered her daughter. He is separated from the group without knowing why and thrown into solitary confinement, alone with his worst fears. The investigation into his past is led by a young Polish lieutenant the same age as Mark. After four years, Mark goes to a cell with a Polish prisoner who confronts him brimming with hatred. At his work assignment in Warsaw's ruinous landscape, he must clear away the most dangerous of collapsing walls. He ends up rescuing a child, breaking his arm in doing so and ends up in the hospital, where he learns that his own murder investigation is fully underway. Following his hospital stay, he is transferred to a cell containing only German prisoners. Here, the old hierarchy and fascist spirit still reign in microcosm with General Eisensteck and Major ... Written by
DEFA Film Library
Exceptionally moving exploration of forms of innocence and betrayal.
I was lucky to catch this movie (English title: "The Turning Point") at a university mini-festival of East German films. As far as I know it was never commercially released in the U.S. Based on a fictionalized memoir, it concerns a teenage German soldier captured in Poland at the end of W.W.II and falsely accused of war crimes. It's an extra-ordinary and complex exploration of the concepts of guilt, innocence, betrayal, justice, and self-deception. It's not a movie about good guys and bad guys, winners and losers. Rather, it concerns issues of both personal and institutional responsibility during war and its aftermath, and it's immensely moving. Not flashy cinema on the surface, but so beautifully written and acted that it stands out as one of the most haunting war films I've seen in the last several years (far more so than the recent jingoistic Hollywood blockbusters). It poses difficult, complex questions about human behavior during war, and offers no simple answers.
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