on 2 April 2010
Yes, it was a little heavy-going, but one can't expect anything less when the movie is all about portraying the lives of Berlin's women (and one woman in particular) in April/May 1945. I read the book "A Woman in Berlin" (Anonymous) A Woman in Berlin: Diary 20 April 1945 to 22 June 1945a year or two ago - after reading Anthony Beevor's great work "Berlin" Berlin: The Downfall 1945. I must say in both reading the book, and watching the movie, I was amazed at the resilience of the main character (anonymous) - how she accepted the situation and ensured she did what was required to reduce her exposure to being assaulted/raped any further. The movie is excellent ... very "authentic" with great attention to detail - I put it in the same class as "Downfall" - "hats off" to German film-making!
For those with an interest in WWII the DVD is definitely worth purchasing - it's a quality film!
on 4 March 2010
This is not your typical all-action war film; if that's what you like, then look elsewhere.
What this film depicts is the fall of Berlin to the invading Russian forces in April, 1945. The story is told from the perspective of a group of Berlin women, who are left largely isolated in the city, together with Berlin's young and elderly residents. Their husbands and sons are either away, losing the war somewhere else, or were killed trying to protect their City.
The film shows what seems to be an honest portrayal of the suffering of many women, subjected to rape and murder by the invading forces, with no-one to protect them. The women, however, do find various ways of surviving and coping with this awful situation and the collapse of their own country. There are definitely some heroines in this movie.
The scenes of Berlin, reduced to a pile of rubble, look very realistic and the acting is of a high standard throughout. The film is in Russian/German but very well sub-titled.
I would recommend this film, as it's different to see a war film based on sex from the female perspective, as opposed to masculine fighting and violence.
This film doesn't venerate war or rape, but shows what the non-military (largely female) populations also had to cope with. This is why films like this are important, as are films about the Holocaust. They don't glorify these historical events, but raise awareness about their horror, in the hope that they never happen again.
Having read Antony Beevor's excellent and accessible historical account "Berlin the Downfall", I felt compelled to read "A Woman in Berlin", being one womans anonymous account of the period covering the fall of Berlin in 1945, and its occupation by Russian troops. The diary is a frank and honest account, which shocked Germans when it was first published, with its graphic descriptions of rape as an almost daily occurrence. Many believed the diaries to be faked, but the way in which the diaries are written, and the fact that it has been historically authenticated that such events took place, add veracity to the account. It has taken me a while to catch up with the film based on the diaries, and I was intrigued to know if a good film could be made out of such difficult material. The answer is an emphatic yes! In its just over two hour running time it picks up the tone of the diary perfectly.
This film is not just an excuse to titilate using mass rape as the pull. There are a few rape scenes, but these certainly do not titilate and have powerful dramatic effect. We see how the women react in different ways to the threat hanging over them. We see how they seek each others comfort. We see the effects on the husbands of these women, who unable to do anything felt emasculated. War brings out the worst and sometimes the very best in the human race. Amongst the brutality we see a human side to the Russian soldiers, many of whom suffered terrible losses of their own during the Nazi advance through their homeland. Whilst one can never condone rape as a means of subjugating a civilian populace, one could perhaps understand the deep hatred the average Russian soldier had for fascist Germany. The film never avoids difficult questions. This is not a war film in the vein of "Where Eagles Dare", thankfully it is something that looks more deeply and intelligently at that other darker side of war where film makers often fear to tread.
The Germans have made many very good films in recent years and this is yet another good example. They are annoyingly good at making good things it has to be admitted! A pity that the British film industry cannot be as consistent in quality. Nina Hoss, the very attractve leading lady, is compellingly good and utterly convincing as Anonyma. The Russian actor Yevgeni Sidikhin is also excellent as the Russian major Anonyma seeks for protection. A special mention should be made of the convincing way in which the film showed the diverse ethnic backgrounds that made up the vast Red Army. The fact that much of the dialogue was in Russian also helped the authenticity of the film. Anonyma was an intelligent young woman who was able to survive her war experiences, albeit carrying away terrible mental scars. But many did not, and this film highlights the terror that these people endured. We should be thankful of the time and place that we have been born into. Many going back in history have not been so fortunate. End of sermon!
on 22 July 2010
I am surprised that no one in the previous reviews took offence at the fact that the film was in large parts a love story that does not exist in the book.I did personally like this love story a great deal even though I normally do not like it when grim facts are sugar coated by romance. But as a matter of fact this is a very realistic love story. Not very sugary at all and even though not in the book I think it manages to express something that could have happened.
The movie has actually two parts, before and after the end of the war.
The beginning shows the taking over of Berlin by the Russian army and the horrible mass rape that was soon every woman's daily reality. The second half is dedicated to the love story and the home coming of Anonyma's husband.
Anonyma is a very fine movie, especially since it is in large parts bilingual German/Russian. The Russian cast is absolutely great. I was not too thrilled by the German actors (one reason to deduce one point. Apart from Nina Hoss they are a bit overdramatic at times.
The shocking story of mass rape is told in a very convincing manner. Evident but not voyeuristic. Without being too explicit we know what is going on.
I consider this to be an important movie as it shows how much the Germans suffered as well.
From reding German reviews on this movie I see that to this day the feeling of guilt runs so deep in the Germans that they still feel uneasy to mourn these events.
This is a movie that ranks among the best. It is a story of woman living in the hardest times.
Based on the memoirs of a woman who wished to remain nameless it is different in that appears to be as honest as they come. Her book was first published in German in 1959 and received a critical public responce, feeling that the author brought shame on German women and German way of life and watching the film one can see why. For not only does it describe the atrocities that happend in the final days of World War 2 Berlin but it is also critical of Germans and has a spark of life that goes some way in explaining how people survive. There are even moments of humour in those bleak times and the Soviets are described not only as brutes but survivors of their own kind.
All of this makes for a very powerful film and Max Färberböck has done great justice to the story by lavishly constructing large sets and doing his outmost to bring Berlin in April 1945 back to life. In fact I was pleasantly impressed by the scale of things having watched similar films before I have never before seen so many people and Soviet soldiers in each scene before, before everything has been done on a tight budget but Max Färberböck has managed to bring the film to epic proportions. Any history buff with attention to detail will appriciate the work put into the film and the detail that the Red Army receives.
I still consider Downfall (1 Disc Edition) [DVD]  (Der Untergang) superior but I feel the two films compliment each others.
Dealing with the taboo subject of the rape of German women by Russian troops entering Berlin in the final days of WWII, no matter how it is dealt with, Anonyma is never going to be easy viewing, so although Max Färberböck's film is very much a palatable mainstream cinematic viewpoint - like Downfall and Sophie Scholl, it's a subject that need to be confronted and does indeed need to be brought out into the mainstream.
Anonyma is based on the first-hand account of a woman who experienced rape and abuse at the hands of Soviet troops, progressing their way through the capital towards the Reichstag. One battalion occupy and hold control of the street, ruthlessly wiping out the last elements of resistance, using the few ruined buildings that remain in the destroyed city as little more than makeshift brothels in which the surviving female population are held in fear, and raped at will by as many soldiers that want them. To survive and try and regain some control over what happens to her, one German woman, the proud wife of a loyal Nazi officer, determines to obtain the favour of a high-ranking Soviet official, become his woman alone and thereby avoid a worse fate at the hands of dangerous unknown men.
The film certainly captures the sense of fear for what lies in store for the women, the early part of the film showing them cowering in darkness in ruined basements fearfully waiting for the torches to highlight their faces and drag them outside, but the horror of what they endure is not shown in any graphic detail - mercifully, some might feel, while others might find this is avoidant and misrepresents the reality, but it's hard to imagine how the film could otherwise be watchable and reach a necessary wide audience. This is an important factor, since the film is based on the original diaries of the only woman to write about the abuses in any detail, which when first published in 1959, were met with outrage and denial and have subsequently remained out of print, only reappearing after the woman's death, and even then, still anonymously.
What the account and the film confirm however is the same as Rainer Werner Fassbinder covered in his astonishing film The Marriage of Maria Braun, one of the few other films to bravely confront the immediate post-war years and beyond, both of them showing (Maria Braun through the forming a bond with a black American soldier) that it the rebuilding of a destroyed nation was largely built on the strength and determination of the German women, the men living in denial and shame of the defeat that they had suffered. It's there in one particular moving scene of Anonyma where one of the women whispers to the husband of a wife seen dancing with the German troops - "We must be practical. Things will get better", only to go and weep behind a closed door for the sacrifice that must be made. The husband doesn't have the same strength to endure it.
Although Nina Hoss is excellent in the central role, one would perhaps have liked to see the Färberböck approach Anonyma with the same sense of fearlessness that Fassbinder would have approached such controversial material (the presence of Irm Hermann here, one of Fassbinder group of actors reminding us occasionally of his ability to push buttons and reveal uncomfortable truths about the German character), but even so, the topic of Anonyma needed to be confronted and it makes a strong impression regardless.
A brilliant searing psychological portrayal of the last days of World War Two as seen through the eyes of a woman. Pre-war we see her toasting Germany's domination of Europe in an autistic haze, oblivious to the real nature of the overlordship, akin to many of the troll socially autistic British public schoolboys who laud National Socialism.
As the film progresses the social reality gradually sinks in piece by piece as she comes to terms with the new arrivals; the Red Army. As victors they just want to go carouse, drink and have sex - the terms and conditions for what they underwent back home; rape. The same as any conquering army invading an enemy after years of slaughter. Compared to the Mongols entering an Islamic city, the Germans had it easy.
The German women cower and count the times they are bodily plundered as the dawn of the ponderous march east finally hits them front,rear and in the mouth as they provide the recompense for the lebensraum holocaust undertaken by the German army. It is however within this humiliation the film depicts the brutal conditions engendered by the confines of war and how it is finally brought home in savage moments.
Within the carnage a love story of sorts begins to bloom, built on exchange affection, sex for food, the women of Berlin adjust to their found status and seek sugar daddies to protect them from the constant maulings. The love story is a European event, so take care those brought up on American saccharine; this will let you down very badly. This is not a spoiler but a pointer to the emotional literacy within Europeans compared to Amerikkkana.
The film minutely details what occurs when occupying armies move into newly claimed territory following the conditions of total war. Interestingly there is no depiction from the West on what occurred when we liberated West Germany from Nazi terror - which makes this film all the more poignant. The Russians appear to be more human in their responses to the carnage within the war and it shows in their war film output; a higher sense of emotional literacy. The Germans likewise have responded with a sympathetic portrayal of their domination in 1945 and this can also be ajudged from their comprehension of the war, a minute introspection lacking within the USA except Mailer's "Naked and the Dead," but dormant within the UK. "Flying Officer X" was one of the few sources that brought trauma to me as a kid - the rest as they say within families - is silence.
A beautifully acted, evocative, emotional searing and gently filled with silent dark horror, this film is another one of those tour de force, up there with the great War films; Come and See, Tin Drum, For our Motherland, Ivans Childhood. Less concerned with killing and more based upon how to bridge the peace, it provides an echoing insight into the meanings people find in the world.
I was not surprised the book was banned and the original author shunned, for no one likes to see the emotional truth played out in front of them, much easier to dress up in black and goose step around in an armband totally autistically shut off to the world around - the produce of our public school system for example.
on 5 July 2012
The story is true, and an account so rarely told that it absolutely warrants being made as a film. Of course it is impossible to re-create the horror a woman must feel in that moment she realises there is no escape for her, and nothing she can do can avoid the inevitability of being raped, and then to know it will happen again and again. I initially felt this film should have been made as an 18 cetificate,and an attempt made to reach closer to that point of feeling in a woman's emotional state, if that is possible.Because then their subsequent behaviour would have been better understood,and also more heroic. In a watered-down 15 certificate this could never be accomplished. There is one moment in this film i really disliked, where the lead character meets her friend again after both have been raped, and asks her "how many times?" (meaning how many times had she been raped.) And her friend answers "4 times," and raises her eyebrows suggestively as if to suggest that it was something to laugh off.In this moment i really felt the actress and director got it wrong. Yes they might try to downplay what had happened, but i personally felt a woman would never have such an expression on her face and then laugh as though it was all a game. By this point in the film most of the women have already been raped and they share a common bond in suffering,and it is there that the filmakers portray them as becoming almost nonchalant about these continued assaults,(Possibly owing something to the style in which the original account was written.)The reality however, must have been far more horrific than is portrayed here, as there were many many suicides, gang rapes and children also were raped. And there was no mention here of these aspects as though that was a step too far even to suggest it.But the truth is the truth. Some women were raped constantly by gangs of soldiers.Do we need to see it? No. But should it at least be mentioned or shown in a subtle way so as to get the full horror across? Yes,if only to be fair to the victims,and to explain why they were then so inclined to co-operate with simply being assualted more on their own terms by a single soldier.
If a Russian audience of men watched this they could easily look at it and feel simply that the Germans got what they deserved,that there were some good russian characters and that the Russian lead character was a man of moral strength and courage. And then they would remind you of what had been done to them in the war leading up to this point. It was very commendable that the Germans made a film featuring Russian actors, but it was made possible by diluting the reality of what they did. But then we need to address why they did what they did in Berlin. Not just because that is what men always do in war, but more because of what the Germans had already done to the Russian women, children, and men in the 4 years leading up to this point. It is touched on in one line of dialogue, but a more powerful way would have been to introduce the film with some kind of fragmented montage of horror of what the Germans did, just a series of examples of true incidents,leading into the first scene in Berlin. You would only need make the film 10 minutes longer, but you would have hit the audience emotionally in a way that would almost make them sit there thinking, "serve them right," about the Germans,and then perhaps the next day they would reflect on their reactions and ask themselves "how could i have felt like that?" And then they would have come closer to understanding both victims and aggressors. Because who is to blame really? In the end it can only be that each person is responsible for their own actions regardless of what everyone else is doing.But that's easier said than done when your wife and daughter have been raped and slaughtered. The director i felt tried his best to walk the fine line between demonising Russian soldiers and showing them as men with varying degrees of brutality and reason. I felt this was done very effectively, sometimes without using any dialogue. But the women are done a disservice in the watering down of what really went on, just for the sake of sanitizing things for a viewing audience. The director might argue that the alternative would have been to make the rapes so explicit that they become the focus of the film,rather than the women, and would put the sensitive people off and attract more of those kind of people who buy films like this just to sit and watch those kind of scenes. So credit must go to the director for not trying to make the film so shocking that this became the major selling point. Above all it is a human story,and an important one, and one so difficult to tell in any way close to how it must have really been. But i felt it was made with the best of intentions and with a very strong desire for fairness.
on 25 March 2010
The German title for this film "Anonyma: Eine Frau in Berlin" [which translates as "Anonyma: A Woman in Berlin"] appears to have been altered to "Anonyma: The Downfall of Berlin" for its US and UK release. One can only presume this is an attempt to cash in on the success of the 2004 masterpiece "Downfall" which depicted the final 10 days of Hitler's life in his Berlin bunker. Indeed, looking at the poster for this film or watching the trailer one could be forgiven for thinking the film will be a flattering - but most likely poor - imitation of the original. That would be a shame. For while this film deals with life in Berlin around the same time as "Downfall" and the grey, bombed-out ruins where the action takes place are almost identical to those seen in that film, "Anonyma" deserves to be seen on its own merits as it offers a completely different, if no less true, view of life in Berlin at that time.
The screenplay was adapted from the memoirs of an anonymous young German woman who lived in Berlin during the Soviet invasion and occupation of 1945. Covering the period from 20th April to 22nd June of that year it tells the story of how - faced with the prospect of being repeatedly raped by the occupying soldiers - she decides to search out a senior Soviet officer and offer herself to him in return for his protection. The film explores the consequences of her decision - both for herself and those around her. Sadly, it seems those consequences would be with her for the rest of her life. Following the publication of her autobiographical account in Germany in 1959 she was shunned by her contemporaries as her recollections were seen as being an affront to the dignity of German women. Following the furore she banned the publication of any further editions of her memoirs until after her death. What she would have made of this film one can only surmise but I found it to be a thought-provoking depiction of the kind of unpalatable choices and moral dilemmas that people face as they struggle to survive in wartime. If it's an all action blockbuster you're after though, you'll be disappointed.
This German film is the adaptation of the famous "Woman in Berlin" diary, written from April to June 1945 by a German woman, who decided to remain anonymous (for quite obvious reasons). The book, which shows the fate of German civilians (mostly women) in Berlin conquered by Red Army, is a very disturbing but brilliantly written thing. To make a movie of "Woman in Berlin" was a very great challenge - and after watching the film it is my opinion that the director/writer and the actors rose up to meet it succesfully.
In case you are not familiar with the book "Woman in Berlin" and didn't see yet the film, two precisions are important:
1. Do not expect a war movie. In the film there is ONE short fighting scene and it is all. The film is first about the civilians hiding in basements during the fighting and then trying to survive once the fighting is over and the Red Army occupies Berlin.
2. This is a very dark, violent and disturbing film, which includes scenes of rape. I think that the rating "15" is too liberal for this film - I would really say that it is not for people under 18. This film can also be particularly shocking and disturbing to women, especially considering that it tells a TRUE story!
"Downfall of Berlin" contains many elements which didn't figure in the book, but many of them were at least slightly suggested in "Woman in Berlin". The director also added an element which didn't figure in the book at all, showing that Red Army brought with it not only rape and abuse, but also the omnipresent shadow of totalitarian fear, symbolized by the Soviet political police NKVD, which in a matter of days substituted itself to its Nazi equivalent, the Gestapo. Also, the relation between the Anonymous Woman and the Soviet major is somehow amended here and slightly less unequal than in the real story (in her diary the Anonymous Woman never left even an ounce of doubt, that she was a sexual slave, "owned" by the Soviet officer).
The film also doesn't show the last chapters of the book, after the departure of most of occupying troops (the hunger and forced labor), which are in fact maybe even more shocking than the description of "women hunting" and rapes.
Nina Hoss, who plays the Anonymous Woman, did an amazing job in this film. After reading the book and watching this film I can say that she really, REALLY entered the skin of the author of the diary and played her to the perfection. All other actors did also a great job and I think the director/writer Max Farberbock should be praised for pushing them sometimes to the limits and obtaining the best performance possible.
Bottom line, even if the 5 stars rating is maybe just a little too generous (4,5 would be just perfect), I think that considering how hard it was to make a film out of this particular book all the team in charge of "Downfall of Berlin" deserves the highest praise. I watched this film with a mixture of horror and interest and even if there were maybe some weaker moments, I still found it a very good thing.
I do not think that it is possible to actually enjoy "Downfall of Berlin" due to its nightmarish topic, but to anybody interested in World War II this is a definitely recommended viewing, as it shows aspects of this conflict usually never shown or even spoken about.