Sometimes home is where you least expect it
The film begins in Africa, a picture of a boy riding his bicycle through the open plains carrying a note of great significance to the main characters. A once prominent Jewish family has been torn apart by the promise of war in their homeland. WWII is on the verge of breaking out across Europe and the Nazi party's stranglehold is tightening around Germany's neck. Cut to an icy glade in Germany where many children are sledding and playing in the snow. A mother and daughter are sledding together down a snowcapped hill; Regina, afraid of her own shadow and even little dogs, and her mother Jettel, an ambitious socialite. Still in Germany after Walter, a former lawyer (Regina's father/Jettel's husband) has fled to a farm in Kenya where he is working as the foreman but has caught malaria, Regina and Jettel are still living a life of comfort until they receive a letter from Walter. The letter beckons them to come to Kenya where the Nairoibi population of Jewish citizens has agreed to pay their fare into the country. In his letter, Walter begs Jettel to bring an icebox, mosquito netting and to leave the China at home as it will be no use in their new home. Max, Walter's father, wishes the family well but does not wish to accompany them as he feels that everything will be okay within a year or two.Cut back to Kenya where Walter is still sick with malaria, the farm's African cook Ouwour dismisses the normal Quinine treatment prescribed by Süsskind, a German expatriate and family friend, in favor of an African herbal treatment and miraculously Walter is healed. Upon being healed, a bond is formed between Walter and Ouwour when Walter gives his former judicial robes to Ouwour for curing him, stating that he no longer needs the robe, he was a lawyer in his first life; he needs to think with his braun, not with his brain now.Six months later, Regina and Jettel arrive in Rongai, Kenya with Walter. Walter recognizes immediately that Jettel has no desire to think of Africa as her new home and views it only as a stop in their lives as opposed to a second life. Regina on the other hand immediately forms a bond with Ouwour and begins to adapt to life in Kenya, befriending the local children and exploring her surroundings. Pan shortly into the future and Regina is becoming an independent child, no longer afraid of snow and small dogs. Süsskind comes to deliver supplies and stay with the family; Jettel naively asks how long he has been away from home, to which he replies this is my home. This is a sense of awakening for Jettel who until now has perceived their rickety farmhouse as only a place to stay. That night Walter and Jettel get into an argument because she had foolishly packed the china and finer goods and left the more important goods, pertinent to their surroundings, at home because she simply refused to let go of their former pampered lifestyle. With no other real companion than Ourwour, Regina begins to learn the lay of the land and the day to day of African life from him whereas Jettel still looks at him as almost a slave. She asks for his help to gather water in one scene, to which he replies that it is womans work yet she persists. He is mercilessly teased by the African women at the waterhole because he allows his ties to the family to outweigh tradition.Six months later, still on the farm, Jettel is still unhappy with their lack of plush surroundings and complains that she needs meat and is tired of eating slop. This bothers Walter who reluctantly and in anger informs her that they escaped Germany in the nick of time; the Nazi's had raided Jewish residences, businesses and synagogues and had sacked them all. Jettel finally begins to realize that Walter might have been right all along in his assessment that they had to leave Germany and that the Nazi's looked at the Jews as subhuman. On Nov. 10, 1938, Walter writes his father a letter begging him to leave and bring the family to Kenya before it is too late. Walter has realized that his parents are some of the most important people in his life because they were always there for him and now he wants to be there for his family, to provide the way his parents did. Meanwhile, Jettle still has biases against the black population and thinks they are dirty, warning Regina against anything unusual they might try to make her eat or do. Regina, already stubborn and curious, sets off to do just that.Fast forward a little and Jettle starts to realize Ouwour is more than a slave, that he is a smart individual. Six months after that, Regina and her father are loving their second life while Jettel is slowly coming to realize what life as an Afrcan is like. Shortly after Walter and Regina and Jettel begin to really adjust, war fully breaks out between the British and Nazi Germany and all Germans living in British holdings, including Jews, are imprisoned in internment camps. Walter goes to one, Jettel and Regina to another, Regina making Ouwour swear he will find them when they get out. For Walter it is a sad and lonely time where he questions whether two people are truly meant to be together for their whole lives. For Jettel it is a retreat back into civilization as the women are put up in a 5 star resort and pampered because the British cannot find other holdings for them. Though back in a pampered environment, Jettel realizes that Regina needs a stable home, even though she is flourishing still and learning English to boot, and that although Jettel prefers a life of luxury, she must be there to support her husband in his wishes. When the Jewish women of the camp begin to organize a drive to allow their husbands to be released, Jettel goes along with them and writes a letter to the Jewish community to help organize their release. Meanwhile, Walter begins to question why Germany would turn its back on them and becomes embittered against the Nazi regime. Once their release is organized, it is reliant upon the men of the family having a job to go back to. Because Walter has been terminated from his job as farm steward he cannot be released. Jettel arranges for a special visit to the Jewish community leader in Nairobi to ask for help yet she cannot arrange it. Upon learning of her wishes, a British soldier who speaks German and has had his eye on Jettel proposes that he can help arrange a job for Walter through some of his contacts but it comes at a cost; Jettel must sleep with him. With her marriage on the rocks and she wishing for her family's protection she willingly agrees. A job on a new farm in, Kenya is arranged and the family moves there. Once again, Regina flourishes in her African surroundings, absorbing culture and life as easily as if she were a native. However, Walter and Jettel have problems as he begins to suspect Jettel may have been unfaithful in order to provide his release. This, accompanied with his embitterment towards Germany lead him down a further path of despair and desolation towards his country. Finally accepting her life as woman of the farm, Jettel begins to enjoy her African surroundings and day to day life that comes with it.On October 2, 1940, the family receives word from his father that it is impossible for them to emigrate now and that he is afraid for his and his family's well-being. This is a major blow to Walter and he begins to resent Hitler and his regime to a point of no return. Shortly after, Owour miraculously finds the family on their new farm and once again restores a sense of order to them. Through his teachings, Regina truly befriends the village children and starts to become immersed in the culture. While Jettel does not mind, she begins to reinstate her wishes that Regina attend school and learn a proper education. Six months later, Regina begins to attend a British ran school where, although she is not exiled, she quickly becomes aware of how Jewish means different to others: no prayer participation, different rules, and somewhat of an unease coming from the other children. Although it is different, Regina thrives in her schoolwork, mainly due to her drive to achieve despite being different.While she is gone, Walter and Jettel struggle to find themselves back in love. Once again the question of love for life is brought up and although neither of them agree that they want to be with each other, they seem to recognize that they need each other even if it is only for one anothers sake. They reach out to each other in a philosophical form more than a loving form but it seems to keep them together. Regina visits sporadically and still fits right into the African culture of the village despite her preening at the British academy. Meanwhile, Jettel is settling more firmly into her role as woman-ward of the farm, taking more part in the day to day running of the farm. It is during one of Regina's visits that the family receives news that their relatives in Germany are being sent to concentration camps in Poland. Walter tells Jettel that Poland means death yet she is unwilling to accept that at face value even though she knows the truth in his words. While Walter becomes more and more embittered towards his former homeland and begins to want to do something about it, Jettel seems to embrace Africa more and more. At one point she cannot leave an old woman to die alone and a villager explains to her that this is the way of the tribe, to be with the ancestors. This seems to comfort Jettel in that she begins to realize that her family too will be with their ancestors.Months later, Süsskind visits and informs Walter that the British army is allowing Jewish Germans to enlist to fight against the Nazi's. While Jettel doesn't like his decision, she becomes resigned to it and assumes Walter's responsibility as head of the farm with Ouwour's help. Once Walter has left however, Susskind begins to visit the farm more often and plays upon Jettels need for companionship. This goes on for a few months until Walter returns on leave after the Allies landed in Normandy in force, symbolizing the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. Regina however, aware of her mother's former tryst with the British soldier, is unforgiving toward her friendliness with Süsskind and confronts her. This has two effects on her mother, the first of which is that she recognizes that Regina is becoming a woman and is struggling with her own rites of passage between becoming a woman of the civilized world and that of the African. The second is a new found respect for her husband and what he has done to keep the family safe and together. While being Jewish, she comes to recognize that faith and ethnicity have nothing to do with the perception of the outside world when they refuse to see you as human; much as she formerly thought of the African people when she first came to the continent from Germany. When Walter returns again on leave, he and Jettel share a passionate night in which they conceive a child. It is on this night that he informs her that their family is dead and that he has been chosen to go back to Germany to start a new western government there. In November of 1946, he receives his commission to go back and must prepare his family for their return. Neither Regina nor Jettel take this news well as they have both immersed themselves in the culture as he once had when he first arrived on the continent. The roles of husband and wife had now been reversed as she was happy finally as the proprietor of their farm instead of missing their former plush life in Germany and with him wishing to return to it.In the end it is Regina, reluctant as she is to return to a land of which all she remembers is fear that is the voice of reason between the two parties. Süsskind is at dinner with them when Walter announces his decision that they will return to Germany, Süsskind, the first to embrace Africa as his home cannot understand Walter's welcoming readiness to embrace Germany as his country once again, angering Walter. Jettel wants to stay at the farm and continue their life as framers while Walter wants to return to Germany and build a new, non-corrupt political system. They fight and he begins to leave back to the military base when a huge swarm of locusts come to the farm and threaten the entire crop. As he is leaving he sees the entire village go out to protect the crop and he remembers Regina's last words to him, mother needs you. He joins the fight against the locusts and when Jettel sees this it seems to rekindle the flame between them, she thinking he'd already made up his mind to leave. While he is still torn between love for country and love for family, Walter tells Jettel that he cannot and will not leave without her. She leaves the decision in his hands resigning herself to the love of her life over the love of her new country. When preparing to leave, Walter finds Ouwour preparing for a journey of his own, a long safari he must go on in order to keep from dying of heartbreak, so deep is his love for this family that has come to cherish his country. Walter finds the robe he gave him upon first meeting and tells him he has forgotten it. Ouwour responds that he has not forgotten it, it was never his to forget as Walter had told him that he didn't need it in his new life. Ouwour calmly informs Walter that he is returning back to his first life and leaving his second, so he will probably need the robe again. The family boards a train to return to Germany, thus coming full circle in their journey for a new life and having found it, being able to return eventually to their old one. However, this time, the return to their old life came with a new member of the family; a son was born on June 6, 1947, thus representing a new chapter to an old way of life. A tale of a complicated and complex journey of people searching for their own purpose and meaning in life and finally, in a roundabout way, finding it.In this movie appears Juliane Köhler who will later play the role of Clara, Fritz Shimon Haber's wife in Haber.
Genre: Biopic, Drama
Directed by: Caroline Link
Starring: Juliane Köhler (Jettel Redlich), Merab Ninidze (Walter Redlich), Sidede Onyulo (Owuor), Matthias Habich (Walter Süßkind), Lea Kurka (Regina Redlich), Karoline Eckertz (Regina Redlich - Older)
Screenplay: Caroline Link
Score: 76 %