February 6, 2009 / 8:49 PM / 10 years ago

Film world focuses on wartime, post-war Germany

BERLIN (Reuters) - War movies are nothing new, but a spate of films based on Germany in World War Two, the Holocaust and more recent history is hitting cinemas at the same time, and directors predict more to come.

An undated handout photo shows actors Kate Winslet (L) and David Kross in a scene from the film 'The Reader ' directed by Stephen Daldry, which is showing in competition at the 59th Berlinale film festival. REUTERS/ The Weinstein Company/Melinda Sue Gordon, SMPSP/Handout

On Friday the Berlin film festival is showcasing Stephen Daldry’s “The Reader,” in which Kate Winslet plays a former concentration camp guard, and Tom Cruise appeared in the recent “Valkyrie” as Colonel Claus Von Stauffenberg, an officer who tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944.

Daniel Craig starred in “Defiance,” about partisans fighting the Nazis and protecting hundreds of Jews, and Jeff Goldblum won critical acclaim in “Adam Resurrected” for his portrayal of a man who acted as a Nazi commandant’s dog in order to survive.

They follow the success of recent German war productions like “Downfall” and “The Counterfeiters,” and the Oscar-winning “The Lives of Others” about an East German secret police agent.

“The Baader Meinhof Complex,” about a group of left-wing militants suspected of killing dozens of prominent West Germany figures, was released in September.

“I am still amazed about how few films are made about the post-war German experience and I am pleased that it is just beginning,” said Daldry, British director of The Reader.

“This film is very much based in about the years from 1958 to 1995,” he told Reuters in an interview in Berlin.

“I am delighted and very excited about ‘The Baader Meinhoff Complex’ coming to the cinemas, but I suspect there will be more films about that era of Germany.

“I think there will be many more films about the lead up to 1989 on both sides of the border,” he added, referring to the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago.


Daldry said he was looking forward to seeing how ‘The Reader’, nominated for a best picture, best director and best actress Oscar later this month, will play to German audiences.

“I am dying to know how it is going to go down,” he said.

“I think it will be controversial here ... I think some people will be fed up that it is in English and not in German. I think people will have a lot to say about the changes to certain aspects to nuances in the book.”

Bernhard Schlink’s novel on which “The Reader” is based is well known in Germany.

Recent films on a German theme, whether during or after the war, have generally fared well at the box office, with “Valkyrie”, “The Lives of Others” and “Downfall” among the strongest performers.

They have also garnered critical acclaim.

For Goldblum, “Adam Resurrected” has been described by Screen International as “career-reviving,” while Winslet has already won a Golden Globe for “The Reader” and has two BAFTA nominations in Britain as well as the Oscar nomination.

Several other German-themed titles are being touted in Berlin, which has a large international film market.

“A Woman In Berlin” stars Nina Hoss as a journalist in wartorn Germany as the invading Red Army takes over.

And although set in China, “John Rabe” is about a German businessman who helped to shelter thousands of Chinese from the advancing Japanese army in 1937.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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