Opening 11 Sep 2008
In 1945 Nazi Hamburg Lena Brücker (Barbara Sukowa) manages a factory cafeteria with the help of cook Holzinger (Wolfgang Böck). Lena meets sailor Hermann (Alexander Khuon) during an air raid. She hides him in her top-floor apartment and they begin an autumn-spring love affair, she almost 50 and he 24. Lena blossoms under the influence of her new emotions; Hermann, afraid of being caught AWOL, peers out the window and worries. The war ends, but Lena selfishly hides the good news in order to keep Hermann longer. In the end the truth comes out and they part, still friends. Hermann returns to wife and child. Lena, full of new-found energy and self-confidence, opens a snack bar (Imbiß) at Großneumarkt. By chance she creates the enormously successful catsup-curry sauce that becomes her trademark.
Director Ulla Wagner’s film is based on the 1993 book of the same name by Uwe Timm. According to Wikipedia, the real founder of the currywurst in 1949 was Herta Heuwer in Berlin, but here poetic license is allowed. Besides a few shots of the harbor, the film shows disappointingly little of Hamburg; all scenes could have been anywhere. The film drags and rare hints of tension or action seem artificial, except when the nosey Nazi Hausmeister smells something fishy. The script is predictable and dull; perhaps the book is better. The two stars are for Barbara Sukowa, one of Germany’s best actresses, who now lives in Brooklyn, New York, and for newcomer Alexander Khuon in his first film. Both have strong ties to Hamburg. Sukowa played many years at the Deutsche Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. (Some trivia: She lived in Övelgönne and sent her son to the International School.) Khuon is the son of the director of Hamburg’s Thalia Theater. (Becky Tan)