by Mariann Kun-Szabo, contributing blogger
“The German Friend”, directed and co-produced by Jeanine Meerapfel, tells the love story of Sulamit, the daughter of German Jewish immigrants, and Friedrich, son of nazi immigrants, who met in Argentina in their childhood during the early 1950’s. Jeanine, director of “Anna’s Summer” (2001) and “The Girlfriend” (1988), is herself an Argentinean woman with a German Jewish heritage. Therefore her film works also as an autobiography that shows the social aspects of being a German immigrant in Argentina, within a new developing society during the German revolution.
The Argentine-German co-production follows, from the girl’s point of view, the story of these two adolescents in a linear manner. The story has two main narrative lines: one is the love story of a modern Romeo and Juliet couple; the other is the impact of some historical contemporary events, such as the German student revolution of 1968, the dictatorship in Argentina, and the Mapuche conflicts of Patagonia. The contrast between the two worlds and the issues of identity are emphasized with the switch between both languages: Spanish and German.
The female character, Celeste Cid, is stunning. Her character grows up in front of the audience. She starts as an innocent child, and evolves into a humorous and strong woman, that follows her love to the end of the world at the most difficult times. German actor Max Riemelt plays the male character who, after discovering the SS past of his father, travels to Germany, then back to Argentina to participate in the revolution, seeking a shift on the past. Since the film is based on personal experiences, the scenes are executed with an emphasis on detail – such as the customs, the belongings of a room, the streets. The audience suddenly feels to be part of the flow.
The film covers big topics with lots of opportunities, however it lacks in rhythm and catharsis. The audience does not get the answer for the questions the film makes (why does this two main characters develop a big bond, or how history affects the German-Argentine identity, for example). One black and white documentary shot embedded about the German revolution helps to get involved with the historical aspects of the film.
The message of the film, however, is strong and is still valid: „These children of immigrants torn apart by conflict are now the citizens of a new country and their mission is to build another society, free from hate.” said Jeanine Meerapfel in Argentina Independent.