Movie Review by Neils Hesse
Starring: Ellen Vogel, Thekla Reuten, Gudrun Okras, Nadja Uhl
Director: Ben Sombogaart
Germany, sometime during World War I and II, two young twin sisters are separated. Lotte ends up in The Netherlands where she proceeds to have a privileged upbringing whilst Anna stays in Germany where she ends up being made to work instead of going to school. Many years later at the start of World War II the girls are now both grown up with Anna (Nadja Uhl) working in Germany as a maid while Lotte (Thekla Reuten) has turned into a promising pianist. After years of writing letters to her sister with no response, Lotte is on the verge of turning her back on her but then she stumbles upon a tin in the house that to her shock has all her letters, they were never posted. Lotte finally posts a letter to her sister and they arrange to meet in Germany over a weekend.
They immediately bond and Lotte tries desperately to get Anna to go to The Netherlands with her but Anna insists that she will follow at a later date. But disaster strikes when Lotte shows Anna a picture of her fiancée to which Anna remarks, “For a moment there I would have thought that he is a Jew”. This remark sets in motion a lifetime of pain and separation for the two sisters. Anna did not mean anything by it except simply that he looked Jewish but Lotte immediately took it as an anti-Semitic remark. After the war ends, Anna and Lotte have both lost loved ones to it and Anna travels to The Netherlands to try and bond with her sister as she is all she has left. Once again tragedy strikes as Lotte discovers pictures of Anna’s late husband in full German army uniform but unbeknownst to her he was actually Austrian and was privately against the war – once again they are separated. Around fifty years later Anna (Gudrun Okras) manages to get Lotte (Ellen Vogel) to listen to the whole story behind the events that drove them apart, and just as they finally seem to be bonding again an even harder, irreversible, inevitability strikes.
Ben Sombogaart has directed a masterpiece based on the bestselling novel of the same title. The whole wartime environment is very believably recreated with scenes of drunken Nazi officers eagerly looking forward to killing Jews and taking over the world, to scenes of those unworthy of being part of the Aryan race being turned into servants. Amidst all this the powerful drama of the ongoing separation of two loving twin sisters, all because of wrong assumptions, is perfectly played out on screen. The soundtrack wonderfully increases the emotional impact of the film.
Performances from the four leading actresses respectively playing the older and younger lead characters are all brilliantly executed but Gudrun Okras playing the older Anna is magnificent and very emotionally involving whilst Nadja Uhl playing the younger Anna excellently captures the harshness that her character has experienced with Oscar worthy performances.
A fantastic sweeping saga that should leave most people with tears of joy.