Monday, May 16, 2011

REVIEW: Saviors in the Night (2011)

Saviors in the Night (2011). Original Title: Unter Bauern (original release: 2009). Dir: Ludi Boeken. Starring Veronica Ferres, Armin Rohde, Lia Hoensbroech. IMDB. In German with English subtitles.

Made two years ago but just released in the United States, Saviors in the Night is a film about a German Jewish family hidden on a farm during the Holocaust. Marga, Menne and Karin Spiegel run away from the labor camp where they're being held when Menne hears that deportation is imminent; Marga and daughter Karin hide with an old friend of Menne's while he takes to the road. Emmerich and Florian Aschoff are farmers who are forced to take in refugees, and only they know that Marga and Karin are Jewish. Their daughter Anni and her boyfriend are enthusiastic Nazis and danger lurks at every turn.

Veronica Ferres as Marga
Saviors is based on a true story (the real Marga and Anni appear at the end of the film) and it's perfectly fine as these things go. I liked the performances and the look of the movie; the farming scenes are lush and the natural environment is beautiful. Emmerich and Florian are interesting people, principled and conflicted. For a film about a situation so inherently suspenseful, though, for me the movie really lacked spark. There were too many characters to keep track of at times; a little judicious trimming would have been helpful. And I wish that the filmmakers had amped up some of the dramatic possibilities latent in the particular combination of characters and personalities. Anni's transformation, which could have made for a great narrative arc, happens too fast, and sometimes it seems like Marga and Karin aren't in any real danger- threats to their safety and their secret fizzle almost as soon as they arise.
A Nazi officer talks to Karin as Florian looks on.
Having said that, Saviors in the Night is nonetheless a good movie and people interested in Holocaust stories will enjoy it. I wish that some of the conflicts had been allowed to boil up a little longer before they were resolved and that a little more license had been taken with the truth in service of a more gripping film. But it's a compelling enough story as it is and at least for this family there was a happy ending.

Rating: RENT




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FTC Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets from Menemsha Films in exchange for a review.

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