WHEN HITLER STOLE PINK RABBIT (Als Hitler das rosa Kaninchen stahl)
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Caroline Link
Writer: Anna Brüggemann, Judith Kerr, Caroline Link, based on Judith Kerr’s novel
Cast: Riva Krymalowski, Marinus Hohmann, Carla Juri, Oliver Masucci, Justus von Dohnányi
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC,
Opens: May 21, 2021
The definition of an optimist is a guy who falls toward the ground from the observation deck of the Empire State Building and, on the way down, exclaims, “So far so good.” A similar note of optimism comes from Anne Frank through her most famous quote, “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” Such a feeling in a new movie represents the optimism of a child, the idealism of a nine-year-old who left Berlin with her family when the Nazis came to power and who understandably complains that she misses her friends, her housekeeper, and her stuffed pink rabbit and becomes a refugee.
There is no question that Anna Kemper (Riva Krymalowski), despite the temporary poverty of her family, consisting of her father Arthur Kemper (Oliver Masucci), her mother Dorothea Kemper (Carla Juri), and her brother Max (Marinus Hohmanm), does not face the horrors that forced tens of thousands of Syrians to leave their country. Nonetheless, as you can well imagine, had Anna and family remained in Berlin past 1933 and into 1939, their fate would have been the swift descent of Jews into the loss of their jobs, their citizenship, and ultimately their lives.
“When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” is based on the autobiographical novel by Judith Kerr, a 192-page work selling on Amazon, probably meant to be read primarily by children. Here lies an effective way to introduce the young ‘uns into the lives of a Jewish family with none of the shocking physical actions taken against Jews as the 1930s turned into a World War. In this film adaptation, Anna Kemper, who will later become the writer Judith Kerr, is shown happy as a cherished puppy in her native Berlin before missing her father who has left the family temporarily to go to Prague because his newspaper columns against Hitler would have caused his arrest as early as 1933.
Director Caroline Link must have considered the novel right up her alley as her “Nowhere in Africa” (2001) finds a German-Jewish family adapting to farm life in Kenya during the thirties. She lucked out in discovering Zurich-born Riva Krymalowski, eleven years old at the time of the filming, here making her film debut. (She had previously appeared in two TV series). As Anna, she appears a bright girl who feels right at home in Berlin, loved by her parents, by the family’s housekeeper Heimpi (Ursula Werner), and more or less by her critical older brother. Now told that the family minus Heimpi are in danger, they pack quickly and hop a train to Zurich, seeing that Switzerland would pretty-much guarantee their safety as a neutral country as the war approaches. Nevertheless the Swiss publications want Arthur to temper his criticism lest Switzerland lose its neutrality and become yet another victim of German occupation.
Anna must adapt to the language. Would it surprise you to know that while residents of Zurich and much of Switzerland read German, their pronunciation is so different from that of Berliners that she must struggle to do well in classes? What’s more the family must adapt to the “horrors” of Raclette, its chief critic being young Max who dreads a steady diet of “melted cheese.” Since Arthur cannot find work as a writer in Switzerland, he moves with his family to Paris, where their financial situation is not much better. The owner of a small hotel does not get her rent in a timely manner, using that excuse to announce her dislike of “dirty Jews.” Though the family goes from solid middle-class to near poverty as Arthur can consider no work other than being a writer with few sources of income, their optimism is assured given the loving embrace of family.
Several other films during the last twenty years are designed to give children the world over the impact of the thirties and forties especially on Jews. We are reminded especially of Mark Herman’s “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” which has the most heartbreaking ending of movies in 2008, and Roberto Bengini’s 1997 “Life is Beautiful” in which a father pretends to his child that he is going for a pleasant walk when in fact he is marching to his death. “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” whose subject had been given TV time in 1978 with the title “Als Hitler das rosa Kaninchen stahl), is a solid addition to Holocaust films, a subject that appears to encourage treatment in literature and cinema forever given the continued interest of the public. Young Riva Krymalowski is a marvel.
In German, French and English with terrific, bold yellow subtitles and stunning alpine scenery.
119 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+