The film's last shot brings to darkened life the favourite painting Anselm earlier described. In the eponymous "Winter Hunt" a small hunched figure that stumbles through the cold field is both the hunter and the hunted. Lena's splintering the frame prefigures her exposure of the old Nazi guard Anselm's false history. She breaks the picture, then his story.
Identifying with the painting, Anselm feels unfairly hunted by stories about his Auschwitz past. Lena turns out to be his new pursuer whom he briefly holds as his prey until her evidence pierces his defence.
Anselm has studiously denied his past, in the face of trials and public persecution. Here Lena's candid self-revelation forces him to confront the truth, his guilt, and its poisonous hold over his family for 70 years. Exposed, he outs the old Nazi beast still within him. The little Jewish girls in the camp were flattered to be raped, he avers.
Anselm initially dismisses Lena as a left-wing nut determined to persecute someone. Anyone. But her own story reiterates contemporary Germany's ineluctable tie to its past, with its attendant responsibility.
By confronting its historic evil modern Germany recovers its moral compass. Confirming that bond, Lena initially introduces herself as Astrid, which is the name of wrier/director Astrid Schult. That makes both and the director's and the character's quest intensely personal.
Housekeeper Elena is the serviceable, passive citizen who discreetly turns away from any danger or embarrassment. The homonymous Lena and Elena are parallel outsiders. Where Lena confronts Anselm, Elena senses a problem but lets Maria turn her away from it.
Lena and Maria can also identify with the figure in the painting, in their respective quests to ascertain their origins and assume moral responsibility. On this, Maria follows the younger Lena.
Maria is arguably the film's moral centre. Her father's lifelong faithful defender, she reluctantly admits the visitor and tends to her injury. That, like Anselm's fate, is self-inflicted. When Maria injures herself in overcoming Lena, she extends her parallel. Lena's certainty about Anselm's guilt sets Maria finally to challenge her father's self-serving version of history.
The shifting winds of German politics have only renewed the story's compulsive currency. This very intense thriller was made for German TV, which would give its tight home setting an additional impact. Still, it's a compelling cinema experience too.