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  • Writer's pictureMatti Geyer

Berlin on the Big Screen: Must-Watch Films in 2024

Updated: Apr 13

Berlin, a city steeped in history and resonating with the echoes of time, continues to inspire filmmakers to craft narratives that delve into its profound past. This January, the cinematic spotlight converges on Berlin with the release of three compelling films, each intricately set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany. Brace yourself for an immersive journey into the heart of history as these movies unravel gripping true stories against the evocative canvas of Berlin's historical landscapes.

Embark on a cinematic journey through time with "The Boys in the Boat," a riveting American biographical sports drama directed by George Clooney. The film takes inspiration from Daniel James Brown's 2013 book of the same name, transporting audiences to the tumultuous era of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

Plot Overview: "The Boys in the Boat" revolves around the University of Washington rowing team and their extraordinary quest for glory in the 1936 Summer Olympics. The narrative intricately weaves together the stories of the rowers, their dedicated coach Al Ulbrickson Sr. (played by Joel Edgerton), and the renowned boatbuilder George Pocock. At the heart of the tale is rower Joe Rantz, portrayed by Callum Turner, whose challenging upbringing and resilience form a compelling backdrop to the larger narrative.

Background and True Inspiration: "The Boys in the Boat" is grounded in the true story of the University of Washington rowing team's relentless pursuit of excellence during the 1936 Summer Olympics – Men's eight. Daniel James Brown's source material draws from the experiences of Joe Rantz, a resilient rower who faced abandonment and adversity, mirroring the challenges of the Great Depression.

Brown's exploration of the personal stories of the nine individuals involved in the race adds depth and meaning to the narrative. The film not only captures the intensity of the sporting competition but also delves into the socioeconomic struggles faced by the rowers during a turbulent period in history. Join me on my Third Reich Tour to learn more about the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Dive into the harrowing tale of "Stella. Ein Leben." – a poignant German historical drama directed by Kilian Riedhof. Premiering at the Zurich Film Festival in September 2023, the film is set to hit German cinemas on January 25, 2024, offering an intimate portrayal of Stella Goldschlag's tumultuous life during the Nazi era.

Plot Overview: "Stella. Ein Leben." delves into the life of Stella Goldschlag, portrayed by Paula Beer, during the Nazi regime in Berlin. A young and attractive woman attending a Jewish school, Stella's dreams of a career as a jazz singer take a tragic turn when her family is betrayed and captured by the Gestapo. Tortured and faced with the threat of deportation to Auschwitz, Stella becomes a "Greiferin," systematically denouncing other Jews to save herself and her parents. The film spans the period from 1943 to the end of World War II, offering a gripping narrative of Stella's choices during one of history's darkest chapters.

Background and Historical Context: Stella Goldschlag's story was previously explored in Peter Wyden's 1992 book, "Stella," based on his memories and extensive conversations with Goldschlag and over 150 other witnesses. Stella Ingrid Goldschlag, born in 1922, Berlin, endured the hardships of Nazi persecution as a German Jew. Forced into collaboration with the Gestapo during WWII, she became a notorious "Greiferin," betraying hidden Jews. Despite her collaboration, she couldn't save her family from deportation and tragedy. Post-war, Stella faced trials, converting to Christianity and living a tumultuous life until her death in 1994. Her dark legacy serves as a haunting reminder of the complex choices individuals faced during one of history's darkest chapters. If you come on my Jewish Berlin tour we will learn more about Stella and the poor souls that fell victim to her betrayal.

In the realm of historical dramas, "One Life (2023)" emerges as a poignant exploration of compassion and courage against the backdrop of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Directed by James Hawes, this British biographical drama delves into the true story of Sir Nicholas Winton, a humanitarian who orchestrated the rescue of Jewish children just before the outbreak of World War II. While the film may not be set in Berlin, its narrative intricately weaves through the broader tapestry of European history.

Plot Overview: The storyline unfolds as a 29-year-old London stockbroker, Nicholas Winton, witnesses the dire living conditions of families who had fled the Nazis in Prague. Motivated by compassion, Winton embarks on a mission to save Jewish children, overcoming bureaucratic hurdles, collecting donations, and securing foster families in England. As the shadows of Nazi invasion loom, Winton races against time to ensure the safety of those in imminent danger.

Fast forward fifty years to 1988, where Winton, now in his 70s, grapples with the ghosts of his past. The discovery of old documents triggers reflections on his work, culminating in a heartwarming reunion with the children he rescued, orchestrated by the BBC's "That's Life!" show.

From Berlin to Prague: As we anticipate the global release of "One Life," we invite you to explore the profound narratives of resilience and humanity that transcend borders. For those seeking a deeper connection with the historical events depicted, we recommend delving into Prague's World War II history with insightful tours offered by Prague Journeys. Specifically, the WW2 in Prague and Around tour provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the stories that echo through time.

In the vast cinematic landscape, "One Life" stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of those who dared to make a difference, leaving an indelible mark on the pages of history.

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