Sunday, November 9, 2014

Movie with Abe: West

Directed by Christian Schwochow
Released November 7, 2014

There’s something about postwar Germany that automatically feels eerie. While the Holocaust makes for an excellent film subject widely known to win awards, Germany in the years after its darkest period is also a wealthy setting ripe for dramatic adaptation. “The Lives of Others” was a terrific example of how paranoia in the splintered Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall seized the nation. “West” takes a step back from that, losing its omniscient protagonist and instead focusing on one woman trying hard to stay under the radar as she starts a new life in 1970s West Germany, haunted by the ghosts of her East German past.

The first scene of the film presents a bleak outlook for the rest of its content, as Jördis (Nelly Senff) smiles through the search conducted by West German officials as she tries to cross into sunnier territory but finds her plan interrupted by an innocent request from her young son Alexej (Tristan Göbel) to use the bathroom. Jördis soon finds herself subjected to an invasive strip search, and though she makes it to her destination without being detained for long or being physically harmed, it is clear that adjusting to her new life, which finds her rooming in close quarters with those considerably below her station, is going to be a weary struggle.

Jördis’ attempts to start her life anew include trying to get a job in line with the advanced degree she possesses, but she finds that her skills are not as easily transposable as she might have hoped. More disconcertingly, Jördis is also approached by authorities seeking to learn more about her dead boyfriend and his ties to illegal operations in his homeland. Jördis is doing what she can to move on, and Alexej certainly has an idealized view of the world that doesn’t match what his mother constantly experiences.

It’s not terribly clear throughout “West” where its story is headed, yet there’s a foreboding feeling that exists during the entirety of the film. Jördis’ interactions with an American representative of the Allied Secret Service fluent in German, played by Jacky Ido, are especially laced with a sense of inescapable inevitability, though its consequences are unknown. The film leaps forward at a surprising pace towards its conclusion that doesn’t suit all that led up to it, realizing an intriguing story shrouded in mystery in a way that proves too definitive.


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