Germany Pale Mother

Deutschland, bleiche Mutter

Set during the Third Reich and its aftermath, this lyrical, harrowing tale of love and war is a neglected classic of New German cinema.

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  • Director Helma Sanders-Brahms
  • Producers Helma Sanders Brahms, Ursula Ludwig, Volker Canaris
  • Screenwriter Helma Sanders-Brahms
  • With Eva Mattes, Ernst Jacobi, Elisabeth Stepanek
  • Germany 1980
  • 151 mins
  • Production company Literarisches Colloquium Berlin

Based on her mother’s experiences during and after the Third Reich, Helma Sanders-Brahms’ lyrical, harrowing tale of love and war explores the devastating impact of politics on family life. Hans and Lene scarcely have time to meet and marry before Hans is sent away to fight, leaving Lene to give birth during an air raid and struggle through the war with a baby daughter. With a brilliant, fearless performance from Eva Mattes (Lene), the film casts a powerful emotional spell, intensified by a delicate, plaintive piano score, the bold interpolation of wartime archive footage and the haunting re-telling of a sinister Grimm’s fairy tale. German critics savaged the film at its premiere, baulking at its ‘subjective’ female take on recent history. Cut by 30 minutes for its cinema release, only now has it been restored to its impressive original form by the Deutsche Kinemathek and Bundesarchiv.

Margaret Deriaz

Image credit
Colour stills: Deutsche Kinemathek
Black and white stills: Sanders Film GmbH