Brunhilde Pomsel describes herself as an "apolitical girl" and a "figure on the margins," but she got closer to one of the worst criminals in world history than anyone else left alive. ...
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Brunhilde Pomsel describes herself as an "apolitical girl" and a "figure on the margins," but she got closer to one of the worst criminals in world history than anyone else left alive. Today aged 104, Pomsel served as Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels' stenographer. Brunhilde Pomsel's life mirrors all the major breaks and continuities of the 20th century. Many people think that the dangers of war and fascism have been overcome. Brunhilde Pomsel makes it clear that this is not case. "A German Life" makes the viewer automatically ask: How would I have acted? What principles might I have betrayed to advance my career? Her extraordinary biography and personal journey into the past lead to the disturbing but timeless question: How reliable is my own moral compass?
An interview with a 103 year old woman interspersed with documentary
segments from the 1940s is not the sort of thing that would seem gripping. Yet, it is, because she explains and reveals her own understanding through her journey as a young woman. She can compare the world of now and its differences with the world she grew up in: it's rules and insularity, and how that spawned the events which led to war and catastrophe.
In a way this is companion piece to Hanke's 'The White Ribbon', not literally, but in the exposure of a society and time which has no resemblance to anything now in Europe. Hanke's film is fiction and with Pomsel's testimony the audience is drawn to her comprehension of herself as a young person and her life afterwards.
There is a compelling feature to her aged face as she talks, the time etched in her lines, the photography and lighting works excellently here, and fortunately for us, she is lucid and recalls the events and her impressions from over 80 years before.
The use of documentary film from various sources over the same period is well judged, and the editing the entire film coheres extremely well.
This is a great piece of documentary making and the sort of reference people will view in a hundred years to understand what that time was like to live through. And of course, it has its tragedies: the fate of her friend being poignant and terrible.
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