Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Flat (Rhoades)

“The Flat”
Holds Family’s
Hidden Past

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Like many of you, I’m at the age where older relatives are dying off. That’s when children and grandchildren must clean out apartments and flats and houses, sorting through the detritus of an unknown life, boxing up old clothing, bagging stray papers, trashing the unwanted, keeping the valuable. Or the memorable.
Possessions come with memories attached. Memories of those who possessed them. Sometimes memories of those who inherit these items.
In “The Flat” – now playing at the Tropic Cinema – we witness a Jewish family cleaning out the apartment of a grandmother who has passed away at 98. What are all these keepsakes? What to make of fur stoles? Magazine articles? Letters? Old photographs, faded and blurry?
The grandparents lived during the time of Nazis. And many memories are tied to that terrible era. Photographs depict them immigrating to Palestine in the 1930s, traveling in the company of acquaintances named von Mildenstein.
“For the first time in my life I have a past,” says the grandson.
However, it’s an uncomfortable past. Adolph Eichmann keeps turning up in the references. His mother doesn’t want to look into it.
This Israeli film by Arnon Goldfinger documents this excavation into his family history.
Goldfinger gradually discovers that his grandparents – Gerda and Kurt Tuchler – had a close personal relationship with a high Nazi official who had headed the SS office for Jewish affairs. During Eichmann’s trial, he often mentioned the SS officer who hired him, Baron Leopold von Mildenstein. Goldfinger’s grandparents’ friend.
His mother is “amazed” to learn her parents reunited with the von Mildensteins after the war. After all, her mother’s mother was murdered by the Nazis. So Hannah Goldfinger reluctantly sets out with her son to learn more about this pro-Zionist German who worked for Goebbels’ Ministry. And her parents.
Time Out Tel Aviv called the film “not to be missed” and cited it as one of the 25 most important art works from around the world for 2011.
I’m not sure I’d go that far, but “The Flat” does take family genealogy to a whole new level. As for Arnon Goldfinger, it’s a personal journey into the past. For Jews, it symbolizes the disrupted history of their families and friends.

No comments: