Political Film Review #334

The Russians reached Berlin first and remained for occasional raids to wipe out lingering Nazi resistance. Most of their idle time was spent eating, sleeping, and turning the city into a whorehouse. In A Woman in Berlin (Anonyma—Eine Frau in Berlin), directed by Max Fäberböck, the women of Berlin find protectors and try to turn the tables on them. A particular woman, Anonyma (played by Nina Hoss), is so enamored of her sophisticated protector, Major Andrej Rybkin (played by Yevgeni Sidikhin), that she tries her best to avoid falling in love with him. And the pairing is not approved by members of the Soviet army. The film, which brings to the screen an anonymous autobiography by Marta Hillers that shocked Germany when published in 1954, has been nominated for best film exposé of 2009 and the year’s best film on human rights and best film on peace. MH

Flame & Citron (Flammen & Citronen), directed by Ole Christian Madsen, is a biopic of the most famous members of the Danish resistance to the German occupation of World War II–Bent Faurschou-Hviid (Flame) and Jørgen Haagen Schmith (Citron). President Harry Truman posthumously awarded them the Medal of Freedom in 1951. The film demonstrates the ambiguity of the underground, as information about members rounded up and shot are either obtained by Nazi intelligence or by double agents within the resistance. Flame’s love affair with Ketty Selmer (played by Stine Stengade), who claims to be a courier of documents to Stockholm, complicates his life when his superior orders him to kill her as a double agent. Knowing that someone inside the underground may be responsible does not deter Citron, who has no compunctions about eliminating Nazis. Accordingly, they agree to shoot the Gestapo head Gestapo in Denmark, Hoffmann (played by Christian Berkel), rather than small fry. The film has been nominated for best film exposé of 2009 and the year’s best film on peace. MH

A spacecraft hovers over Johannisberg. A million or so ugly extraterrestrial aliens, who speak a strange language, descend to earth. They are herded into the city’s District 9, where they build shanties and seek food from trashdumps for two decades, called “prawns” because their appearance and appetite resemble bottom-feeding crustaceans. The good citizens of the city dislike their filth, so they decide to move the aliens to another walled compound, District 10, by force if necessary. District 9, directed by Neill Blomkamp, is more social science fiction than science fiction, as Blacks and Whites in the city agree that they must be treated as animals with obvious parallels to the apartheid era, notably District 6, the mixed race (“coloreds”) part of Capetown that was declared Whites-only in 1966, whereupon 60,000 residents were expelled. Wikus Van De Merwe (played by Sharlto Copley), son-in-law of the owner of the government contract in charge of the forcible eviction, however, gets so close to the most recalcitrant aliens, who want to stay, that he is infected with their DNA, and an alien limb replaces his left arm. Then he finds out why aliens do not want to move, tries to get what they need most, but is pursued as an unacceptable half-breed. At the beginning of the film, the aliens appear disgusting, but not at the end, as Wikus’s plight unlocks the secrets of the extraterrestrial sojourn that can be used to liberate some of them. The Political Film Society has nominated District 9 as best film on human (alien) rights of 2009. MH