Oh dear. This was dire! Keira Knightley wore some very glamorous frocks, although someone really should have mentioned the words “clothes rationing” to the costume department, and whichever one of the Skarsgards it was (how many of them are there?!) has nice piercing blue eyes, but, other than that, it was grim. It sounded like such a good idea, a British woman and a German man who’d both lost loved ones in the war coming together in an illicit romance, but the said romance was utterly unconvincing and the writer seemed to want to draw a veil over the Nazi atrocities. If you haven’t seen this one already, give it a miss. But, if you know how to get a wardrobe like Krystle Carrington’s on a 1945 clothing coupon allowance, please do share.
We don’t hear that much about the situation in Germany after the war – the Displaced Persons Camps and the de-Nazification programme. The Women in the Castle covers it, but it’s not the world’s greatest book and it’s not very well-known. Maybe the author of the book on which this film’s based genuinely meant well by showing how much German civilians suffered during the war, and, yes, the wartime bombings caused terrible suffering on all sides, not to mention (although that wasn’t really relevant to this film, set in Hamburg) the atrocities carried out by Red Army soldiers against women in particular, and, yes, it’s important that we’re aware of that.
But why on earth did he (or the scriptwriter?) suggest that British/Allied soldiers (other than the betrayed husband) were indifferent to it, shot civilians at random and used skulls as footballs? And, whilst there were various mentions of “the Fuhrer”, virtually nothing was said about what the Nazis had done, to explain why some of the characters were so uncomfortable about being in Germany, even though the Nuremberg trials opened during the period in which the film was set. It gave the distinct impression that the script had been written by a some sneering so-called “liberal” Britain-hater, the sort of person who thinks Churchill should be vilified rather than lauded and conveniently ignores the fact that the Nazis murdered millions of innocent people, and that just put me off – not that I needed much putting off, because the plot was weak as well.
As for the plot, it should have worked. Keira Knightley’s character was joining her husband in Hamburg, where he was part of the British forces working to rebuild the city and keep an eye on Nazi insurgents, but their relationship had never recovered from the loss of their son in an air raid. She thought he blamed her, he’d been distant, etc etc. They’d requisitioned a large house, but allowed the owner and his daughter, the wife and mother having been killed in an air raid, to stay on. The daughter had a Nazi boyfriend – think Liesl von Trapp, but without any singing and dancing, just sulking and stealing. At least Rolfe did all that I-am-17-going-on-18 thing: this boyfriend was just a miserable git. Mind you, so was the daughter, so they were probably well-suited. The said boyfriend tried to kill the British guy, but, having killed his chauffeur by mistake, fell through the ice in a frozen lake which had suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and, unlike Jo Bettany and Amy March, died.
Rachael/Keira actually was pleased that the Allies had won the war (it was a relief that somebody was), and wasn’t very pleased about being in Germany. She was snotty with the German guy and his annoying daughter … but then she suddenly changed her mind about him whilst her husband had nipped out for a few minutes, and they started having a passionate affair. Then she changed her mind back again, and stayed with her husband. It was just totally unconvincing, despite all the clichéd eyes meeting across rooms and gazing longingly out of windows stuff. The idea was that they’d bonded because they’d both lost loved ones, but that didn’t come across at all.
Oh dear. Oh well, at least I watched it on a plane, rather than forking out good money for a cinema ticket! But what a shame, because the idea was good. But, whilst I don’t know that the book’s like and shan’t be bothering to find out, the film really wasn’t!