Opening 26 Oct 2017
In 1943, four Germans overturned the hand fate dealt them. They were young, still optimistic and hopeful despite the country being at war. Then, June 19 Hitler’s propaganda Minister Goebbels’ antisemitic decree is to purge the Reich’s capital, Berlin, of all remaining Jews. Survival becomes paramount. Nevertheless, Cioma Schönhaus / Max Mauff, Ruth Arndt (both 21) / Ruby O. Fee, Hanni Weissenberg (19) / Alice Dwyer and Eugen Friede (16) / Aaron Altaras stay in Berlin. Hiding in plain sight, as families are torn apart, friends and neighbors turn against one another, promises are broken, and a knock on the door often means death. Perhaps hardest is acting normal once the identifying yellow star is discarded. Still, the humane actions of some make all the difference.
Ten years ago while making a television documentary, director Claus Räfle’s curiosity was roused. Legend was, a young Jewish woman with false papers worked at the infamous Salon Kitty brothel during its espionage ventures. Digging deeper, he and co-writer Alejandra López quickly hit pay dirt, learning circa 7,000 other Jews survived this way. After the war most left the country. Researchers at the Gedenstättte Stille Helden in Berlin provided invaluable help with tracking people, historical authentication, and accuracy. First discussions began in 2009, whereby Räfle and López decided to focus on four survivors.
Although describing that awfulness, Cioma, Ruth, Hanni and Eugen are engaging. You deserve to hear their fascinating tales, which is the film’s foundation, in their words. Moving back/forth between the protagonists and flashbacks, we learn how they stay one step ahead of capture, and about kindnesses from sympathizing Germans. The cast is first-rate, as is the crew: Jörg Widmer, camera; editors Jörg Hausschild and Julia Oehring add archival footage; K.D. Gruber, art direction; Matthias Klein, music; costumes Ute Pfaffendorf with Henny Zimmer, Lena Lazzarotto’s make-up. Combining personal interviews, the cast’s depictions and historic footage provides unique viewing. Die Unsichtbaren (the invisible) deserves subtitles in other languages to reach wider audiences because we all understand, Wir Wollen Leben (we want to live). (Marinell Haegelin)