A Love in Germany (1983)

“I’m only doing my duty.”

A man travels back to his small hometown in Germany after an absence of 40 years. With his teenage son in tow, his goal is to piece together exactly what happened to his mother during WWII. As he tries to talk to villagers and discover the truth, a story unfolds of a tragic love affair between the man’s German mother and a Polish prisoner of war. Their fate becomes the focus of the film, A Love in Germany.

Through flashbacks, the story unfolds of Paulina Kropp (Hanna Schygulla) who runs a small grocery shop while her husband serves in the German army. The villagers use incarcerated Polish prisoners-of-war for unpaid labour. The POWs are subject to strict rules–they are not supposed to live, eat or fraternize with the Germans. Polish POW Stanislaus (Piotr Lysak) sleeps in the stables, and he’s ‘loaned’ out for various tasks. Stanislaus begins doing work for Paulina, and they engage in a steamy affair. In the village, it’s impossible to keep anything secret–and soon the affair is common knowledge.

While A Love in Germany from director Andrzej Wajda is ostensibly the story of a love affair between two people who were supposed to be enemies, the film is much more than that. By retelling the affair, the film subtly examines Germany’s past. When the forbidden affair inevitably comes to the attention of the authorities, ordinary German citizens become involved with irrevocable decisions. What should be an intimate, private matter between two people is dissected, analyzed, and judged according to rules and regulations set forth by Himmler. The question of the “Ayran-ness” of Paulina and Stanislaus will help decide their fate, and neighbours, friends and acquaintances collaborate in a sick system. The fine actor, Armin Mueller-Stahl plays Mayer, a German officer who is out of his moral depth, but consoles himself by following the minutiae set forth in documents regarding interracial couples. Mayer’s underling, Schutze, is a petty bureaucrat given the authority and the uniform of a monstrous system. Based on the novel by Rolf Hochhuth, this excellent film is in Polish with English subtitles.

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Filed under Hanna Schygulla, Poland

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