In Two Lives, an Old Nazi Secret Comes to Light


Seven decades later, the creative well has somehow not yet run dry on the ripple effects of Nazi Germany’s offenses, though writer-director Georg Maas’s slick and sulky second feature is not another dime-a-dozen Holocaust tragedy.

Loosely based on both historical fact and Hannelore Hippe’s novel Eiszeiten, this domestic psychological drama concerns the tense, long-dormant plight of Katrine (Juliane Köhler), a middle-age Norwegian grandmother whose family is asked to testify against the state on behalf of war orphans.

Katrine, it’s revealed early on, is a product of Lebensborn breeding and repatriation, the daughter of an occupying German soldier and Norwegian screen legend Liv Ullmann, whose rare appearance seems especially fitting for a project that plays like some ersatz Ingmar Bergman devotee adapting a John le Carré novel.

Set in an idyllic village circa 1990, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall (with further intrigue unfolding in superfluously backdated Super 8 flashbacks), the film takes one entire act too long to shake its mopey fog and get crackling, when Katrine admits a horrifying truth to three generations of her family, that her part in East German politics once ruined the lives of others. (See also, hint hint: The Lives of Others.)