Created for German television, the World War II epic Our Mothers, Our Fathers has since aired on Polish, Irish and Swedish TV and now finds its way to a theatrical release, retitled Generation War for American audiences. Conceived and undertaken, in the words of producer Nico Hofmann, as "a sensitive, critical homage to the generation of my parents" — those "everyday Germans," according to writer Stefan Kolditz, caught out by history as adult life began — the four-hour production also was designed as a conversation piece. Generation War presents a war of individuals whose actions are guided not by evil or ideology but by common ignorance, self-interest, obligation and compromise. Five young friends — two women and three men, one of whom is Jewish — part on a raucous 1941 evening, filled with romantic ideas of the war and where it might take them, certain of their return to Berlin by Christmas. All except Viktor (Ludwig Trepte), who is deported and joins the Polish Resistance after escaping from a concentration camp, will take on shades of the archetypal "good German" over four years of war; in the beginning they are less black-and-white than green. Non-Germans might sense in this enactment of these Berliners' wartime failings and sufferings a faintly therapeutic quality. Those same viewers require more from the plight of these characters, however, than the film is equipped to give. Neither allies nor enemies, Charlotte, Wilhelm, Friedhelm, Viktor and Greta are avatars of history all the same, their psychologies hazy, subject to the diffusions of cliché and hedged inference. They remain "everyday Germans," only slightly less generic than the film's title suggests, valuable chiefly as signifiers of Germany's evolving relationship with its past.
Volker Bruch, Tom Schilling, Katharina Schüttler, Miriam Stein, Ludwig Trepte, Mark Waschke, Henriette Richter-Röhl, Götz SchubertMusic Box Films