Here is one more proof that old people (like children) are good for documentaries. This is what I experienced watching this sympathetic, informative documentary that plays with the expression ”böhmische dörfer” – English title is ”Bohemian is all Greek to me”, for our Danish readers is would something like ”en by i Rusland” meaning that this is past and present history that we do not know about or do not understand.
The film makes the story of Sudetenland, its dramatic stories, victims of war and change of borders much clearer, and the old people adds an emotional element that I would have loved to have much more of. Jana Cisar – who is also the producer of the film – takes us to her grandmother, who was born in Thein (now Tynec) and like 3 million other Germans, who lived in Czechoslovakia before WW2, had to leave her hometown. She now lives in Mariánské Lázně, beautiful Marienbad and has never been back to the place where she was born and raised. The grandchild – Jana Cisar – makes her go back to
back to abandoned Tynec but she is too moved to step out of the car to see the house of her childhood.
Herr Altmann, 90 years old, on the contrary, managed to stay after the war. He is a brilliant storyteller, when he brings to us the story about how he survived – being a German soldier – the end of the war, when the Germans had to surrender and the Americans arrived to the small village in Bohemia. ”The villages are falling apart”, he says about today and the camera catches the decay.
As a narrative ”Fremdelement”, but a very interesting and important one, sequences with and about American director Samuel Fuller are introduced. In unique b/w archive material you see the hard core cigar-smoking director talk about what he filmed, when he arrived with the American forces to what he calls ”the last battle in Europe” in Falkenau, where the concentration camp was liberated. Shocking clips of 16mm footage he shot back then are mixed with scenes that show the late director’s family attending a memorial for what happened then. Pure reportage.
It’s all very relevant content-wise, but the film unfortunately suffers from going from one place to another, from one subject in the complicated history to another. New persons are brought in, who are not so charismatic, the style is different, the rythm is broken. Maybe it would have been good to have Cisar’s personal touch as the red thread that is missing? A long sequence with writer Leina Reinerova (who died in 2008), who says about herself that she speaks PragerDeutsch and talks well about her life and imprisonment during communist times, is full of clumsy cut-aways from the interior of the Slavia Café in Prague, where the interview is recorded. Why not stay on a very strong woman and her face? Anyhow, I learned a lot from watching – it’s not that Greek to me any longer!
Germany/Czech Republic, 78 mins., 2013