29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
, 12 July 2010
This review is from: The Downfall Of Berlin - Anonyma [DVD]  (DVD)
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!
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