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Michael Verhoeven has constructed a masterpiece in this glorious depiction
of denial in a small German town. Through a unique style, Verhoeven takes a
sensitive topic, the feelings of Germans as to their participation in WWII,
and adds a glorious ironic humor to the story.
Lena Stoltz is glorious as Sonja, retaining her youthful charm and appeal throughout the film, from infancy to adulthood. Her apparent youthful innocence is what gives the movie much of its staying power in the minds of its viewers.
This movie is comedy, tragedy, documentary, and social commentary rolled into one glorious package.
The thrust of the movie, as I saw it, was the propensity of a society,
any society, to conveniently 'forget' the details of its involvement
with nefarious deeds carried out in its name. Much as the vast majority
of American westerns tend to gloss over the true level of barbarism we
so-called civilized members of society visited upon the 'heathen'
Indians, the German town in question conveniently 'forgot' its level of
involvement with the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Mädchen's true
'sin' was of revisiting the Nazi era and detailing the involvement of
many of the town's leading lights with that regime and its atrocities.
In toto, this film asks disturbing questions about society (any society) and its willingness to justify or simply forget 'inconvenient' truths and realities.
The film is about a young woman in a small conservative community in southern Germany who decides to do some research into life during World War 2, and discovers that the version of events she has been brought up to believe is not backed up by the facts. A witty and biting satire on bourgeois hypocrisy and people's refusal (or unwillingness) to remember unpleasantness. To its credit the film is not didactic or one-sided and manages to make its point in a highly watchable but thought-provoking manner.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
German playwright Bertolt Brecht felt that theatre should teach the
audience certain moral lessons, and to this end he developed a mode of
presentation frequently described as "theatre of alienation"--a type of
production in which the audience is never allowed to fully identify
with the characters and their situations and is instead asked to
critically observe the material and draw conclusions from it. For the
most part, this is a style that works best on the stage--but director
Michael Verhoeven uses it as a springboard for THE NASTY GIRL. And the
result is one of the few instances in which these Brechtian concepts
come successfully to the screen.
The story is wickedly funny. A bright young lass, the daughter of two teachers, wins an essay contest--and when the next contest is announced she again decides to compete, this time with an essay on "My Hometown During The Third Reich," in which she plans to show how her small Bavarian town resisted Nazism. But few, even those regarded by the townfolk as heroes of that era, are willing to discuss it--and those that do provide conflicting information. She eventually gives up the project, but it continues to fester in the back of her mind, and some years later when she resumes her research with the idea of writing a book she discovers that the anti-Nazi heroes were not, perhaps, either anti-Nazi or heroic.
The main thrust of the film centers upon Sonja's relentless battle against the powers that be to obtain access to documents from the Nazi era, and how civic leaders work to frustrate her--both by persistently dodging her demands for the material and by direct terrorism. But their resistance makes Sonja all the more determined, and she becomes willing to pay any personal price. Ultimately, she does arrive at some of the truth, only to discover that she has now been enshrined by civic leaders as a "hero" in an effort to silence her with praise.
Director Michael Verhoeven presents the story in an odd mix of documentary and theatrical and realistic styles that mesh extremely well to create that famous Brechtian effect without ever actually seeming preachy. And leading actress Lena Stolze, as "the nasty girl" who accidentally drifts into the role of advocate for the truth at any price, is equally remarkable: she gives a very likable, bemused performance that draws the viewer in even while maintaining the necessary degree of detachment the style requires. Not all viewers will appreciate the film--some will find the subject too dark, others may not be able to buy into the style--but this is a brilliant film, and you owe it a chance. Strongly recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
Using Brecht's idea of Epic Theatre, Michael Verhoeven creates a stage
which audiences can learn from the past, and critique such instances from
World War Two and Nazi Germany through the main character Sonja's
Brecht wanted Epic Theatre to use history and let audiences apply it to the present. This type of theatre makes you aware that you are watching something staged, so that you analyze the situation rather then feeling the same emotions of the characters. Verhoeven does this very nicely using a few alienation effects (also know as vefremdungs effekt). One scene taking the walls down of Sonja's living room and having it float through town while people anonymously call and threaten her family. Here the idea of Foucault's panoptican (an instrument that can see everything) comes into play as well. Sonya has no anonymity from the public, which is made up of the church, the government, the media, and the fifth establishment (the elder generation that serve as a link from the past to the present), yet she cannot identify any of them specifically. Later on again in a different sequence, Verhoeven brings back the walls. It is here that Sonja learns some names she can use to defend herself, and the walls of defense are back. Bringing back the walls also helps alarm the audience, just in case they were becoming too comfortable without them.
Another part of the film is Sonja's family. In many scenes the children are seen crying and the father, Martin, tending to them and getting rather flustered. At one point he yells at Sonja telling her how her children would like their mother. Later on at the end of the film we learn that he has left her. Verhoeven plays on Sonja's obsession for finding the truth as a distraction from her family, yet there are parts where she still says she needs to stop, for the safety of her family because of threats. I think the scenes of neglecting the family are overdone to not show the point that Sonja is a bad mother, but that she wants her children to grow up and learn to love their Heimat (homeland), which during WWII was given a negative political term. She wants to make things better for her children so they don't grow up learning all of the corrupt things the her town has been covering up.
The Nasty Girl is a clever and great cinematic film that makes you think, rather then feel. As the viewer you walk away learning something.
At points this film feels almost comic, but never loses its focus on the
important topic of Germans either coming to grips with the past or
it up. Some modernist filming techniques seem to remind the viewer that
film is very much set in the time of its production (1990, though the
begins in the 1970s) rather than in the distant, black-and-white days of
past that is its most important subject. It's like Verhoeven is saying
cover-up is NOW."
It is my understanding that the story is based on the experiences of an actual German woman. That being the case, Verhoeven could have written a serious biographical film about this woman's experiences as she struggled to investigate the truth of her town's activities during the Nazi regime. This was the method used in his portrayal of the Scholl siblings in Die Weisse Rose. But I can see reasons for his different approach with this film. The topic of Die Weisse Rose is so heavy for obvious reasons, and there is very little modern controversy over considering them heroes. But as the topic of Das schreckliche Maedchen remains controversial and, for many Germans, difficult to discuss, the somewhat light-hearted approach that Verhoeven takes may open doors for more viewers and more discussion. And again I repeat that the approach does not diminish the topic's importance. He strikes a nice balance.
On another note, this film is also a very good portrayal about a modern woman's struggle to be independent in her work while having a large family. I'm not surprised to see that the positive voting here at IMDB is most prevalent among women in their twenties and thirties.
I really liked this movie a lot. Apart from a very brief nude scene and
some strong (but appropriate in this situation) language at the end,
this is an excellent movie for anyone about age 12 and up. It concerns
a very nice young lady who is beloved by her small Bavarian town--until
she makes the mistake of looking into the town's dark past. It starts
innocently enough, as she is trying to write a paper about the town's
heroes who resisted the Nazis. However, no one in town seems willing to
talk about this "glorious resistance" and the town's archives are
closed to her. Only after making herself a pain in the butt by suing
the town repeatedly does she get ahold of records that prove little, if
any resistance to the Nazis. In fact, many of the most beloved townsmen
in fact HELPED and actively supported the Nazis.
The movie has a very odd artistic style. While it doesn't really detract from the film, you should see it to understand what I am talking about--it's quite unusual at times.
What is so interesting and incredible about the movie was how everyone turned against her so quickly and violently. My only complaint was that it only talked about German reactions to their past. On a trip to Salzburg, Austria just a few years back, I noticed a beautiful monument to the Waffen SS (the group that manned the death squads and enacted the "final solution") prominently displayed in the town's cemetery! Yes, this was the SAME cemetery in which the Von Trapp family hid in the movie The Sound of Music! If you are there some day, see it for yourself. It would be nice if someone confronted the apparently more open acceptance of their Nazi past here as well.
Sonja (Lena Stolze) seems like any ordinary person. That is, until she
has to research her town's history for a project. In the process, she
discovers that her town was heavily involved in the Third Reich. Then,
everyone in town not only turns against her, but tries in every
possible way to silence her.
Much like another West German film ("The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum"), "The Nasty Girl" shows a woman used as a scapegoat for something that was society's fault (it makes sense for German movies to deal with that; it's exactly what the Third Reich was all about). Another one of Germany's solid masterpieces.
Watching this movie, I couldn't help but wonder what sorts of secrets any place, anywhere on Earth, carries.
The introductory half of the film can be seen as a comedy. It's funny and
not very realistic. There is, however, a poignant undercurrent of criticism
of the church, of the wealthy, and of narrowmindedness, showcasing people's
ability to see only what they want to see.
The second half becomes much more serious as Sonja encounters hostile and
uncooperative people from her hometown.
Lena Stolze is very funny and charming as the younger, naive Sonja. But the shift between her young character and her old character is too abrupt. There is very little of the curious girl and more of the martyr (one scene suggests that perhaps she herself believes she is a martyr). In her last scene she takes a role completely different from either of these, and again, the change is abrupt (although this time it seems more justified).
The film seems too basic: Either the characters do or do not support Sonja, although some characters allow her to continue her activities only up to a certain point, and other characters lovingly disapprove of them. There is no real conflict for Sonja throughout the film because the people to whom she is closest support her ideas (though not always her methods). There is a lot of obvious malice in the townspeople's actions against her. Once Sonja obtains the necessary documents, her research seems very simple -- although it may have only been the director's choice to skip the laborious details.
The visual style will inspire some and annoy others.
This is worth seeing for the acting and the message that attitudes that seem past are very much a part of the present. But the comedic elements, excessive simplicity, and theatrical style of the film detract from its powerful message.
Das Madchen Schreckliche (The Nasty Girl) is about high school student girl who write an essay of her town during War World II. She gets a violent opposition for search the truth in her essay. The film is based on a true story. I remember seeing the woman on 60 Minutes a couple years ago talking about her life that the film is based. The performances in the movie was great but the ending was weak.
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