12 October 2017 | hof-4
30 years of Argentine history
The story covers the relationship of Sulamit, daughter of German Jewish parents that found refuge in Argentina before WWII and Friedrich, son of an unrepentant ex-SS officer emigrated to Argentina under false identity after the war. Both Sulamit and Friedrich were born in Argentina, and in the mid 1950s live in rather similar houses across the street in a suburb of Buenos Aires. Their friendship and subsequent liaison continues for many years in Argentina and Germany. Director Jeanine Meerapfel's family background is similar to that of Sulamit, thus we may assume there are autobiographic elements here.
The film touches upon many subjects and questions. Some of them pertain to the main characters' interaction, for instance: what role should family's past play in one's life? (some of Shulamit's relatives perished in the Holocaust, Friedrich's father is probably guilty of war crimes). Other, more general subjects are the unwillingness of German postwar governments to deal with Nazis, the hopes raised by Salvador Allende's win in the Chilean presidential elections in 1970 (dashed by his overthrow and murder by the Chilean military in 1973), and the hopelessness of armed resistance to the 1976-1983 military dictatorship in Argentina. Some of the references, such as the failed military coup of June 1955, writer Jorge Luis Borges' fondness for military dictatorships or a particular antisemitic incident that followed the abduction of Adolf Eichmann in 1960 by Israeli agents need knowledge of recent Argentine history.
What makes this film so good is the placement of a personal story (told without undue sentimentality) in a precise historical context, that of Argentina in the period 1955-1985. Having lived in Argentina during much of that time, each reference was familiar to me (for instance, the white smock that Sulamit wears in school or the song she and her classmates sing at the ceremony of raising of the flag before the beginning of classes). Meerapfel's direction is fluid, and her script is flawless; every character's lines ring true. Acting and cinematography are also excellent. A must see.