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Andreas Dresen From Hilde, With Love Review

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From Hilde, With Love | 2024 Berlin Intl. Film Festival Review

From Hilde, With Love | 2024 Berlin Intl. Film Festival Review

Germany, Pale Mother: Dresen Locates the Good Germans of WWII

From Hilde, With Love ReviewIt comes as no surprise an old-fashioned director such Andreas Dresen is adept at making old fashioned period pieces, and the workmanlike approach to his latest, From Hilde, With Love is an altogether approachable, sympathetic film. Told out of order as we flashback to the passion and excitement its titular character experienced one defining summer as she awaits potential execution for defying the Nazis, it’s also a film which fails at being remarkable in any way. With a mousy, overtly passive lead character and performance, there’s a lot of inert space in a narrative which should instead provoke. In our attempts to never forget the atrocities of the Holocaust, should we not make more of a collective effort to steer clear of making forgettable films?

Hilde Coppi (Liv Lisa Fries) finds herself suddenly detained by the Gestapo in Berlin, 1942. On the verge of giving birth, she pleads ignorance to aiding and abetting her lover Hans (Johannes Hegemann) in transcribing radio transmissions to Moscow. It would appear they have more evidence against her than she anticipated, seeing as the remainder of those involved in their resistance group (known eventually as the “Red Orchestra”) have also been arrested. Giving birth in prison, she’s told her child may be taken away from her, but her level headedness wins over a helpful nurse and eventually a steely prison matron, Frau Kuner (Lisa Wagner). As Hilde awaits her sentencing, she reminisces about her involvement with Hans and their romance. We learn she was already married to a man named Franz, drafted earlier to serve on the frontlines. Her reluctance towards Hans’ advances eventually evaporates and she’s adopted by the group thanks to her typing and copying skills. But these memories of one magical summer where Hilde finally felt alive eventually come to an end.

In comparison to Dresen’s last feature, Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush (2022), his latest feels like a masterpiece, following the well grooved, standardized recipe of the WWII resistance drama. Strangely, neither Hilda nor any of her cohorts are well characterized, and their connections compromised by convoluted details regarding her first marriage.

As Hilde, Liv Lisa Fries tends to underwhelm, which is remarkable considering she’s an accidental spy, and therefore ripe for martyrdom (and seemingly little else). Dresen’s energies rise to the occasion infrequently, though a birthing scene adds some tension (and gives Lisa Wagner a fine, withering moment), and the film’s final, inevitable juncture are aesthetically chilling. But neither her romantic inclinations nor her convictions are explored with any real depth, and is a film which feels more akin to the glossy Alone in Berlin (2016), an adaptation of the famed novel Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada (though director Vincent Perez somehow thought filming in English with Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson was appropriate).

We also learn little about the ‘Red Orchestra’ resistance group as a whole, the sad irony of only one of their transmissions ever being received by Moscow. But Dresen doesn’t explore any of these tensions, instead focusing on the inherent need to showcase the resistance of good Germans who desired to be more than mere armchair revolutionaries.

Reviewed on February 17th at the 2024 Berlin International Film Festival – Main Competition section. 127 mins.

★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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