Political Film Society - Newsletter #205 - September 1, 2004

September 1 , 2004


RosenstrasseAlthough Nazi law exempted Jewish spouses from liquidation if they married "Aryan" Germans, in February 1943 the Gestapo rounded them up anyway. When the film begins, sixty-year-old Ruth Weinstein (played by Jutta Lampe) is mourning the recent death of her Jewish husband; her daughter, thirtysomething Hannah (played by Maria Schrader), is not only baffled at Ruth's considerable grief but also her opposition to her impending marriage to Nicaraguan Luis (played by Fedja van Huét) because he is not Jewish. Although Hannah asks her mother to explain why she has such deep-seated memories as well as prejudice against Gentiles, Ruth refuses to do so. However, information supplied by a cousin (played by Carola Regnier) attending the wake prompts Hannah to fly to Berlin in order to discover the circumstances of Ruth's adoption at the age of eight (then played by Svea Lohde) by thirty-three-year-old Lena (played by Katja Riemann), who had been disowned by her aristocratic father for marrying Jewish violinist Fabian Fischer (played by Martin Feifel). The film flashes back and forth between the 1943 roundup of Fabian and other Jewish spouses and Hannah's search for the truth in about 2000 through Hannah's interview of ninetysomething Lena (played by Doris Schade). Directed by Margarethe von Trotta, Rosenstrasse shows how some Germans turned their backs on Jewish friends out of fear while other Germans were sympathetic to the Jews, especially those who were intensely loyal to their Jewish spouses. The film focuses most attention on the confrontation in the Berlin street named Rosenstrasse, an actual episode where for seven days German women stood outside a building where their husbands were being detained prior to their deportation to concentration camps, demanding their release. The suspense about the fate of the husbands builds gradually, with a surprise outcome that is a partial answer to the continuing debate about how much ordinary Germans cooperated with the Nazis. Because the film brings to light a little known episode in the Nazi era, the Political Film Society has nominated Rosenstrasse for an award as best film exposé of 2004.  MH

Anatomie 2, directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, is a German film that is a sequel to the director's Anatomie (2000). Both films ask questions about medical ethics by positing the Nazi quest for a master race as an ultimate goal of medical research. When the film begins, Jo Hauser (played by Barnaby Metschurat) challenges Dr. Charles Müller-LaRousse (played by Herbert Knaup) at a public forum, cuts open his body, and falls to the ground. Then the film flashes back to a day when Hauser says goodbye to his paraplegic brother in Duisberg and travels to Berlin to become an intern at the number one hospital in the country. When he arrives at the ultramodern Berlin Clinic, he meets the nursing staff, which is primarily Filipina, other interns, and the top medical researcher, Dr. Müller-LaRousse. The interns, who are especially friendly, seem eager to reveal that they are self-experimenting with drugs. Although his roommate cautions him, Hauser responds positively to the attention from Dr. Paula Henning (played by Franka Potente), especially one day when she injects something into his bloodstream that enhances his sexual performance. Soon, Hauser is being encouraged to become one of a team of medical researchers headed by Dr. Müller-LaRousse, who seeks the Nobel Prize in medicine by transplanting muscles, which can be operated by the transplant subject as well as by remote control. Hoping that the medical breakthrough will ultimately benefit his paraplegic brother, who is dying of the same crippling ailment that claimed his father, Hauser agrees to become a part of the Anti-Hippocratic Society. After a ceremony in which he is accepted into the Lodge, which is an international cabal of medical researchers who are determined to try anything new and to share the results at secret meetings, he becomes the victim of experimental muscle implants. One day, Dr. Müller-LaRousse decides to begin Phase 2 of the experiments, when human muscles will be removed so that artificial muscles will alone be implanted in the body. Hauser then realizes that the so-called medical research is quackery, as eventually do some others, and there is some considerable suspense about how Hauser escapes from those interns who have been brainwashed to believe in the ultimate success of the experimentation and are prepared to kill him in order to stop him from whistleblowing. As credits rolls, the stage is set for an Anatomie 3. If pressures on medical researchers to find a breakthrough are as depicted in the film, those who are seriously ill should be wary of going to the top medical facilities in the world, where untested drugs or procedures may be tried on unsuspecting patients.  MH