5 February 2008 | przgzr
Don't yawn... this is a TV biography, but...
You don't expect too much when you put an American TV movie in DVD. You expect even less when it's a German TV movie on the DVD. In fact, you can hardly be disappointed: it can be as bad as you expected, or you can sleep it over before you become disappointed.
Or, sometimes, if you are very lucky, you can be pleasantly surprised and find a watchable movie.
"Margarete Steiff" is even more than that. It is almost a good movie. And, in fact, while you watch it you'll find parts that are a good movie indeed, so good that you'll forget it was made by and for German television.
However, values of the movie are in the same time its flaws. This is a biography and, as a TV movie, it could have been made as a boring education program. (Why are biography movies usually so boring compared to an ordinary documentary program on National Geographic or Discovery channel dealing with the same topic?) But instead of teaching us and giving informations, from the day of birth and names of parents to the graveyard where the person rests in peace, authors chose a different approach. They focused on three important periods of main character's life and gave us a drama in three acts, separated by one or more decades. Yet, the way they are presented is rather diversified almost as if they were made by different directors.
The second part is the longest and the best, and therefore we can conclude that there was not enough time to develop the plot in first and last chapter, so they are a bit poor. And, as it was a TV movie, it would maybe be better if it was made as a mini-serial with each of these chapters being a one 45 or 50 minutes episode.
The first chapter, or act, is a childhood story. Actress playing Margarete couldn't make us believe she is a 10 year old child (similar to Judy Garland playing Dorothy), and the script didn't help her either. Some today 10 years can talk and act like her, but that isn't convincing for the particular place and time. Many relations between characters that are important for next parts of the story are marked, but briefly, in laconic way; especially I miss depth in Margarete's relation to priest and church as community, knowing more about Margarete's uncle and his relation to her parents, and most of all development of Margarete teacher relation: he is one of the most interesting characters in the movie, and compared to usual 19th century teachers we can see a man who is uncommonly able and willing to abandon usual methods when a special child appears.
And last chapter is the weakest one. Though it should be a conclusion, the one that is supposed to encircle the story, but though we meet most of the same characters, we don't care for them any more because they don't seem to be more than talking furniture. But this time, unlike act 1, this is not due to compression of the plot: though it is a hard and dramatic moment in Margarete's life we don't find it to be as important as moments in first two chapters. Maybe the time gap between act 2 and 3 is too big, we lost too big part of her (and others') life, and the writers didn't manage to make us include in the story once again. (If it was a new episode of a serial, it wouldn't matter that much...) The very ending is the worst thing in the movie. It could end at any point in her life equally, this moment doesn't seem to be any special climax in the movie or in her life. We in fact understood the main character's feelings and motivations only while she was a child the more the years pass, the more we know what is happening to her, and less what she is inside. So this sudden end leaves us rather empty. She made one victory in her career? It seems she made many of them, and we don't get an answer why is this (or is it all) the most important of them. Or if she is satisfied at all, if this professional success compensated her disabilities and loss of personal life. Was she so much ahead of her time that she didn't care for lack of most important things in her generation women's life husband and children? If this was a usually boring biography we wouldn't ask, but after the second chapter we were free to expect more.
This is not "Francesca e Nunziata" as I thought it might be when the movie was announced. But there are still reasons to watch the movie... especially for you who were so interested and patient enough to read my whole comment.