|Index||5 reviews in total|
While the title makes it sound like a combination of The Sound of Music
and a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, this is actually a serious film
about the real-life Edelweiss Piraten, a loosely organized gang of
German anti-Hitler youth who harassed the Nazis and hid Jews and others
who were in trouble.
It's the last days of World War II, bombing raids are nearly a daily threat, but the Nazis are still very much in charge. The youths use the bombing raids as cover for their guerrilla activities, and not all of them survive. Both they and the people they are protecting are constantly in danger, especially when, like the main character, they have gung ho Nazi sympathizers in the family.
The characters are half-starved and living in rubble, but they still manage to keep their integrity and fighting spirit, all the more remarkable, since they would have spent most of their lives under Hitler.
Wartime propaganda in North America painted all Germans as evil but it seems that finally enough time has passed since the end of the war that films can explore more subtle story lines. Not all Germans were Nazis and the stories of those Germans who just tried to survive and even some who went beyond and protested the war through their dress and activities are not well known. This film does an admirable job of showing daily life amidst the ruins of Cologne in the closing months of WWII. Short of food and hope, gangs of anti Hitler-youth who call themselves 'Eidelweiss Pirates' listen to French underground jazz music and fill their days with mild acts of protest against the state. Eventually these teenage kids are drawn into the underground through personal circumstance to do their part to terminate the war in any way they can, perhaps foolishly and without forethought but with as much belief in their cause as their Hitler Youth counterparts. Truly a groundbreaking piece of film and a story that needs to be told. The film does suffer from being a bit slow moving, especially at the beginning, and the final scene is overwrought, but these are minor complaints.
In the end of World War II, in the bombed Köln, the teenager Karl Ripke
(Iwan Stebunov) lost his old brother in the war while his father is
fighting in the front. His younger brother Peter (Simon Taal) belongs
to the Hitlerian Youth while Karl belongs to the gang Edelweiss Pirates
that fight against the Nazis and steals food supplies for their
families. Karl has a crush on his sister-in-law Cilly Serve (Anna
Thalbach), who raises her daughter and her son with his brother alone.
When Karl finds the German prisoner Hans Steinbrück (Bela B.
Felsenheimer) wounded in the middle of wrecks, he hides the man; later,
Hans saves Cilly's little son and she lodges him at her home in return.
Meanwhile, Peter discovers that his father was not pro-Hitler, leaves
the Hitlerian Youth and joins the Edelweiss Pirates. Hans becomes a
leader of the group and teaches the youths to use weapons and organize
an armed resistance. When Hans is betrayed by a former pal, the Gestapo
chases the Edelweiss Pirates, forcing Karl to take a difficult decision
to save his brother.
"Edelweißpiraten" shows a sad historic event about a group of youngsters in Köln that were against the regime of Hitler. The story is simple and very dramatic, with great direction, performances and locations. The importance of this production is not the story itself, but to disclose to the world that there were many people in Germany that opposed to the cruelty of the Nazis and that were tortured and destroyed like enemies. The characters are not Jews or allies, but Germans that did not agree with the Nazi Party. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "Irmãos de Guerra" ("Brothers of War")
I only heard about the Edelweiss Piraten very recently so I was very curious about the movie, as the the rating of this movie on IMDb wasn't particularly high. I must say I am very glad having ingnored it and following the experience that German history is best served from German movie makers. The fact that the story is being told by a genuine former EdelweissPiraten-member Jean Jülich gives the authenticity of the movie very much credit, as well as the camera. The story is being followed by the viewer always from the point of a direct atendee of the scene which really adds to the dramatic effect. My rating would be 8.7, therefore i choose 9
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Edelweisspiraten" or "The Edelweiss Pirates" is a co-production
between four different countries (one of them being Germany) and the
result is that this film is mostly in the German language. The version
I saw ran for 96 minutes (including credits), but I see there is also
another version out there that is roughly 15 minutes longer. The
director and also one of the writers is Niko von Glasow and it is
probably even more than a fairly prolific decade after this one was
made back in 2004 his most known work. Does it have to do with the
cast? Not really, I guess. Jochen Nickel, Anna Thalbach and Bela B.
Felsenheimer are all no unknown actors, but also nowhere near the elite
of German film performers. As for Bela B., he is still much more known
for his performances with German punk rock band Die Ärzte, even if his
acting career is also more prolific than most may think. And with Anna
Thalbach, I am not only amazed how much she resembles Katharina (like
identical twins in different decades), but also that she somewhat
nicely pulled off the female lead here as well as in looking both
desirable and stunning, but also in terms of looking like a political
victim of her time.
And this of course refers to the Nazi years because this is when the film is set and the Edelweisspiraten are a resistance group that did in fact exist for several years, even if hardly anybody outside the historian profession knows about them today. And maybe one reason is that the attention they received, for example with this movie, is not on a level that depicts them as memorable to those interested (theatre audiences in this specific case). Sadly the two brother characters never really attracted my attention and I found them relatively weak and interchangeable. Bela B. was slightly better, but given the material and potential to his character he was also underwhelming. Thalback was okay like I wrote earlier. The Nazi actors did not make a difference either. I believe that with a subject like this (resistance and suffering in 1940s Germany), films need to come up with something special, something that stands out because there are hundreds of films on this subject and if you really want audiences to care, then you need to make a difference compared to all these other films. This film here does not and so it sinks in the gray matter of the genre I just mentioned. Even worse, the horror/torture/violence scenes towards the very end make it look like a desperate attempt to achieve this previously mentioned difference, but it never feels creative, just for the sake of it. Like I wrote in the title of my review, this is quite a shame as these Edelweißpiraten sure deserved a film that accurately and convincingly elaborates on their existence. I hope they get one in the future. This one is not it. Watch something else instead.
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