Berlinale 2010: Dispatch 3

Jew Suss: Rise and Fall

In a third dispatch from Berlin, Pamela Jahn reports on a new American indie talent and Oskar Roehler’s unsuccessful take on a famous case of Nazi propaganda. Check this section for more reports from the festival in the coming days.

Winter’s Bone
An austere, dark adaptation of Daniel Woodrell’s country noir saga about a teenager’s search for her missing father, Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone is a chilling, nightmarish tale of rural struggle for survival complicated by family feuds. When 17-year-old Ree (impressively played by Jennifer Lawrence) learns that her drug-dealing father has disappeared after pawning the family home and jeopardising her sick mother and young sibling’s existence, she decides to find him – dead or alive. Looking for the truth among members of his criminal circle of friends and relatives scattered in the forests of the Ozark Mountains, she is faced with a series of dangerous and violent events, but gradually disentangles the web of lies that surrounds her father’s vanishing. As the mystery is solved, however, the story becomes overly sentimental, which feels at odds with the film’s otherwise intriguing atmosphere of mistrust, threat and everyday misery. But besides this, Winter’s Bone is gripping enough to keep you interested, with Granik showing an eye for detail and a genuine talent for building a creeping sense of obscurity and despair.

Jew Suss: Rise and Fall (Jud Süß – Film Ohne Gewissen)
Boos and incredulous gasps greeted the end of the press screening of Oskar Roehler’s Jew Suss: Rise and Fall, a star-studded and slick but overall disappointingly hollow Nazi drama about one man’s Faustian pact with the Hitler regime. A confused, clunky mix of satire and melodrama, the film tells the story of Austrian actor Ferdinand Marian (Tobias Moretti), who is forced to perform the role of Joseph Suss Oppenheimer in Jew Suss, a film based on Goebbels (ridiculously overplayed by a ranting Moritz Bleibtreu) and Veit Harlan’s fraudulent adaptation of a novel by German-Jewish writer Lionel Feuchtwanger. Married to a half-Jewish woman, Marian’s initial attempts to turn down Goebbels’s offer only serve to intensify the excitement of the latter, leaving the actor no choice but to accept and perform the part of the powerful, manipulative Jewish businessman and financial adviser of the Duke of Wurttemberg, who was hanged in Stuttgart in 1738. The main problem with Roehler’s film is that he focuses merely on Marian’s tragedy, ultimately turning the attention away from the history of the notorious film that became one of the Third Reich’s most offensive and commercially successful pieces of propaganda to concentrate on an all too predictable human drama.