Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Brush up on your German

I am not a "movie snob." I have a little talking statue on of Napoleon Dynamite on my desk, m'kay? But I must say that I enjoy a well made foreign movie now and again. No, I don't mind reading subtitles one bit, and kind of like hearing the actors speak in their native tongue rather than having some hack job overdub in English. Over the past several months I have had the great fortune of discovering four movies in German, and although they have literally nothing to do with medicine, I'd like to recommend them to anyone who is interested in movies that concern conscience and morality, and who understands the destructive power of government. All of these are available at Netflix, and all but "After the Truth" are available at Blockbuster.

Sophie Scholl (Die Letzen Tage) is a depiction of anti-Nazi resistance movement members in their last days in 1943. While their story may be well known in Germany, certainly it is worth telling to an American audience as a reminder of the true bravery of those souls who stand against the evil that men do to others, and of the price they pay. Well acted and well worth the time to watch.

The Counterfeiters (Die Fälcher) is another true story from Nazi-era Germany, this one told from inside a concentration camp where a hand-picked group of prisoners were forced to participate in the largest counterfeiting operation in history. This excellent film is based upon a book by one of the survivors, The Devil's Workshop: A Memoir of the Nazi Counterfeiting Operation, and won the 2008 Oscar as the best foreign language film. What struck me the most about this film is how well it portrayed a rather unsympathetic character who is able to eventually recognize the inhumanity around him and do the right thing when needed.

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Andersen) is also an Oscar winner for best foreign language film, and probably one of the best movies I have ever seen. Set in the period before the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, this film explores the insidious way in which the continuous intrusion into the privacy of the populace -- an absolute necessity to maintain a socialist state -- destroys the souls of the spy and those spied upon. This is truly a great film; obviously, I'm in good company.

After the Truth (Nichts als die Wahrheit) is the most esoteric film on this list, and the one which has the least grounding in actual events. Imagine that the Nazi "angel of death" didn't eventually die in Brazil in 1979, but bided his time for a last chance at public redemption. I won't spoil it for anyone who wishes to watch this fascinating movie, but to have an elderly Mengele recount his deeds as "merciful," and accurately compare them to embryo experimentation, euthanasia, and the like is chilling. This is the kind of movie that should have gotten much wider distribution.

So, brush up on your German, or get comfy with subtitles. I promise you won't be disappointed.