Title: THE FLAT
Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten
Director: Arnon Goldfinger
Screenwriter: Arnon Goldfinger
Cast: Arnon Goldfinger, Edda Milz von Mildenstein, Hannah Goldfinger, Harald Milz, Gertrude Kino, Tamar Tuchler, Michael Wildt
Screened at: Dolby24, NYC, 10/10/12
Opens: October 19, 2012
If you want to know why so many Jews continued to hang out in Germany during 1930s even as the Nazi regime increasingly tightened the vise—Jews dismissed from their posts, Jews not allowed to sit on park benches, Jewish-owned stores vandalized, Jews humiliated on the street—Arnon Goldfinger’s “The Flat” provides at least one answer. The subject of his documentary is the filmmaker’s grandmother, a look at why even after moving to Israel (then called Palestine), she declined to learn Hebrew and decorated her house with books almost exclusively in German. In other words the Jewish population, at least until Hitler’s design to progressively eliminate them (and many, unfortunately, until it was too late to move), considered themselves loyal subjects who loved their Central European country. Some were decorated heroes in World War I as well. Yet the director’s grandmother, though she did get out in time to save her life, remained a German in heart and soul even throughout her seven-five years’ residence in Israel.
Then again, this woman was most unusual. This Gerda Tuchler had a friendly relationship with Baron von Mildenstein, a man who was Adolf Eichmann’s boss, joined him when he toured Palestine during the thirties to look into resettling Jews out of Europe, and after the war even returned to Germany to visit him as though the Holocaust never occurred. This is a chapter in Jewish and German history that has come out with the releasing of “The Flat,” proving that you simply cannot close the book on Holocaust-related enlightenment.
How do we know all this? We find out when Arnon Goldfinger, with mother and others, go to the Tel Aviv residence of the grandmother after her death at the age of 98. They prepare to sell out or junk the contents strewn about to such an extent that some twenty or more trash bags were needed to empty the flat. Theirs was a treasure hunt that includes scores of German books by Nietzsche, Goethe and the like. But some items are not thrown out, namely documents that provide the family with information not heretofore known about this unusual relationship between Gerda Tuchler and the SS officer. The yellowing pages of a Nazi newspaper “Der Angriff” clues the family in when they read an article “A Nazi in Palestina,” showing the baron and his wife with the Tuchlers.
Arnon and his mother go to Wuppertal, Germany, welcomed by the baron’s daughter Edda, who after receiving evidence of her father’s complicity in the Holocaust insists on getting “both sides of the story.” In denial? Of course. Then again it took chutzpah for the filmmaker to enlighten the woman, exposing the nefarious duties of her dad.
The director continues to make challenges, exhibiting to the film audience the lack of curiosity from his own mother about the subject, making her akin to most of the students I’ve enjoyed teaching in high school World History. We almost expect Hannah to ask her son, “Am I responsible for this on the test?” What’s really unusual is finding that the younger generation in the guise of the director is more interested in the past of his family than is his mother, who cares not a whit, it seems, for the activities of her own mom.
The film is superbly edited, though its staid nature might make this less than sought out by our society of ADD film buffs.
Unrated. 97 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – A-
Acting – B
Technical – A-
Overall – B+