Saturday, January 25, 2014

Short Cut Movie Review: Two Lives

Short Cut Movie Review is normally less than 400 words, but in some cases may go slightly over. This is my attempt to keep writing about as many films as I see without getting bogged down with trying to find more to say. They are meant to be brief snapshots of my reaction to a movie without too much depth.

This film has not yet been released commercially in the United States.

The German-Norwegian co-production Two Lives is about the war children of Norway – babies fathered by Nazi soldiers during the occupation. Because Norwegians were considered true Aryans, these children were regarded as part of the pure race and so the movie, written by Georg Maas, Christoph Tölle, Stale Stein Berg, and Judith Kaufman (and directed by Maas), claims many of these children were forcibly removed from their Norwegian mothers and placed in Lebensborn homes in Germany. This is the story, based on an unpublished novel, of a woman who was reunited with her birth mother in Norway, but whose life begins to unravel after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Katrine (Juliane Köhler) has a loving relationship with her husband, Bjarte (Sven Nordin), in a home she shares with her mother, Ase (Liv Ullman), her daughter, and her grandson. The love in this family is strong and detectable early on. But Maas slowly reveals that something is amiss. A lawyer comes around talking about a trial in the European Court to bring to justice the people who removed children. He wants Katrine and her mother to testify. Katrine is hesitant. We don’t understand why, but scattered throughout are flashbacks, shot in grainy 16mm style, of Katrine as a young woman being sent on assignment by a dour superior.

It’s impossible to say much about Two Lives without giving away the film’s big secret and the way it unfolds is most of what the movie has going for it, although some of Katrine’s background and the reasoning behind her initial assignment that sent her to Norway to be united with Ase are never illuminated, leaving what felt to me like a gaping plot hole.

Still, the most interesting aspects of the film have to do with the character study of Katrine. It’s about twenty years of guilt and lies being powerful enough or not to mar the familial relationships one has with a husband, a mother, and a daughter of two decades. It would have been too much for one film to tackle, but there’s a whole other movie to be made focusing more on the effects of the Stasi on someone in Katrine’s situation and the ways there are always at least two sides to every story. She garners our empathy because of how she’s established as a family woman after which we learn about her past and the remarkable circumstances that forced her hand into an impossible life.

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