Thursday, March 7, 2019

Hiding from Nazis in the heart of Berlin

Imagine being Jewish in Berlin during World War II and trying not to be discovered, no simple task in the goose-stepping heart of Nazi Germany. Blending documentary interviews, archival footage and re-enactments, The Invisibles tells just such a story — or, more accurately, four such stories. The movie’s four interviewees — Cioma Schonhaus, Hanni Levy, Eugen Friede, and Ruth Arndt — provide accounts of their experiences evading detection: constant change of locations, reliance on the beneficence of Germans who were willing to help and the exercise of a fair amount of improvisational skill. There’s obvious interest in knowing that such people even existed, but — as is the case with many Holocaust stories — this one qualifies more as a footnote than as a major addition to the canon. Mixing interview footage with re-created drama doesn’t always succeed, sometimes making it difficult to keep the story of each character in mind. A blended approach might have worked better had director Claus Rafle focused on one of the four stories because all of them contain intriguing details, particularly the story of a young woman who works as a maid for a Nazi officer who knows that she’s Jewish. The Invisibles tackles an intriguing subject but doesn't dig as deeply as it might have. For the record, the movie tells us that 1,700 Jews who never left Berlin survived the war.