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With: Nina Hoss, Evgeny Sidikhin, Irm Hermann, Rudiger Vogler, Ulrike Krumbiegel, Rolf Kanies, Jordis Triebel, Roman Gribkov, Juliane Kohler
Written by: Max Färberböck, Catharina Schuchmann, based on a book by "Anonyma"
Directed by: Max Färberböck
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: German, Russian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 131
Date: 09/10/2008
IMDB

A Woman in Berlin (2009)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Rape of Wrath

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

According to the end credits, the original book A Woman in Berlin was published anonymously and raised quite a ruckus. Apparently, people were shocked and refused to believe that noble German women would be forced to such degrading lows to protect themselves in the waning days of WWII. Unfortunately Max Färberböck's new film version does not raise even the slightest hint of controversy. Like his Aimee & Jaguar (1999), it's a rigorous adaptation, handsomely mounted and with fine performances, but totally impersonal. One gets the impression that Färberböck is more interested in staying faithful to the book than making any kind of an impact of his own. (He's exactly the opposite of a daring filmmaker like Rainer Werner Fassbinder.) Sullen blonde beauty Nina Hoss stars as the title woman, stuck in Berlin as the Russians come marching in at the end of the war. High-spirited and victorious, the Russians begin treating the city as their own personal whorehouse, frequently and casually raping the local women. Our heroine -- who speaks a bit of Russian -- learns that she can gain a measure of control by seducing two officers, thereby becoming "theirs" and protecting herself from the army of lower-ranking tormentors. The film introduces several supporting characters, but as with Aimee & Jaguar, Färberböck fails to really flesh them out. From our vantage point today the main character looks like a hero, and Färberböck has a hard time demonstrating the mindset of the time; that a raped woman is a "fallen" woman, and not worthy of respect. Moreover, the only thing he really has to say on this subject is "Isn't this horrible?" Yes it is, but Färberböck doesn't give us any other reason to watch -- except for Fassbinder veteran Irm Hermann in a small role. [Reviewed November 30, 2009]

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