27 September 2011

24 Sept - "We'll just send them to Madagascar"

Europa, Europa (1990)
dir. Agnieszka Holland (The Secret Garden, 1993)

Marco Hofschneider
Julie Delpy (Broken Flowers, 2005)

Last week my neighbor/bff asked me to go with her to the German club's movie night and this was the selection. The funny thing was that I thought this movie was hilarious, it thought it was like a comedy, but my poor neighborette did not share my mirth. She's German, so I guess it's like a too-close-to-home thing for her.

So it's a German war movie, and the kid here is Jewish, and he gets separated from the rest of his family, and he has to pass as a non-Jew in order to not be murdered. It doesn't seem like a comedic premise, but bear with me. Sometimes I'm worried that I might be sort of racist sometimes. I try not to be that way, but I think in this case I have a valid argument. I wasn't the only one in the room who was laughing.

The first point of humor is that Solly (Solomon or Solek) keeps getting left behind by whatever group he's tagging along with by a very narrow margin, this inevitably leads to him narrowly escaping demise, also by a very narrow margin. For example, Solly gets separated from his older brother due to a mix-up with some boats, but then his boat lands on the wrong shore and Solly gets taken up by some Bolsheviks and put into a communist orphanage. but then when the school is destroyed Solly gets left behind by the other orphans. At another point Solly (alias Peter) is told that he's going to have to provide some documentation about being German, and all is almost lost, but then the building is blown up and the administrator dies, problem solved!

It is also important that this is a very sexual movie, and the sex is treated very comically. On his train ride to the Hitler Youth School, an older woman seduces Solly (in the dark, of course!) fawning over his dark hair and the fact that he shares the same birthday as Hitler. "Mein Furor!" she exclaims in the throes of passion. To further emphasis the irony of  stereotypes, Solly has a dream sequence in which he and Hitler are hiding in a closet together. "He's Jewish too," Solly's dead sister explains, "that's why he hides it with his hands." "Don't tell them I'm here!" the cowering Hitler moans.

I will also say that a lot of this movie revolved around the protagonist's penis. Of course, when you're a fellow trying to pass as gentile, your dick is a big liability. Solly worried about his a lot, and by a lot I mean maybe a little bit more than any other pubescent boy. He is upset because this means he won't be able to sex it up with his girlfriend, but it turns out that she's a super-Nazi and dumps him because he isn't Aryan enough.

On the other hand, this movie does have a somber theme. Especially near the end when Solly has to face other Jews again, and explain why he is strong and rosy-cheeked while they are emaciated with loved ones dead on the ground. Solly survived, but is he a traitor? When he meets his brother again they both pee on the ground side by side, unashamed to display their true selves to the world. It was a fitting ending.

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