Sunday, September 27, 2020

Movie with Abe: The Keeper

The Keeper
Directed by Marcus H. Rosenmüller
Released October 2, 2020 (Theaters and Virtual Cinema)

The end of a war does not mean a sudden return to normal life. That’s especially true when a conflict resulted not only in the loss of soldiers on the battlefield but also a direct impact on those at home, who unwillingly and unpreparedly became targets of enemy fire. A military surrender does not relieve those on all sides of their previously-held perspectives, and knowing that an effort has failed does not erase desire and anger from a person’s heart. Proving value and trustworthiness to those who vilify your very identity is an extraordinarily difficult endeavor.

Bert Trautmann (David Kross) is a Nazi soldier held at a British prisoner-of-war camp near the end of World War II. His skill as a goalie is noticed when he is playing with other prisoners one day by Jack Friar (John Henshaw), the manager a football club whose team is not performing well. Jack makes the bold decision to bring Bert out of the camp to play, where his presence is met with fury and resistance from locals. When the war ends, Jack takes steps to ensure that Bert can help them win one last game before he leaves, which in turn leads to him being spotted by someone with the power to change Bert’s future. Initially resistant to the idea of him being around, Jack’s daughter Margaret (Freya Mavor) slowly warms to the kindly German whose eyes are immediately set on her.

This film is based on a true story, one that involves a considerable career for Bert that is likely much more well-known among British soccer fans than in the United States. It opens with Bert as a man whose dislike for the English-speaking soldiers who now command him outweighs any allegiance to Nazi ideologies, which some in his camp still proudly spout. He is haunted by memories of horrible moments in war when his status as a soldier simply following orders begs moral questions. As he begins to accept those around him, they too begin that process, and it is the action of a Manchester rabbi, Alexander Altmann, who wrote a letter encouraging fans to consider Bert on his own merits rather than as a representative of his country, that truly paves the way for Bert to begin to feel at home.

Kross is a German actor best known internationally for his starring role in another film about the perception of Nazis, “The Reader.” Here, he builds a complex character who is pleasant and appealing yet still remains tied to his homeland by the irremovable guilt he feels. Henshaw is great mostly as comic relief, and Mavor infuses the film with passionate energy. This film is not exclusively about soccer but instead serves as a bridge from war to love to fame, telling a sincerely intriguing story with cinematic scope. It may not fully explore or dwell on its moral intricacies but it does serve as involving entertainment and a forceful cry for coexistence.


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