Starring: Marco Hofschneider, Julie Delpy, Andre Wilms
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Distributor: Umbrella World Cinema DVD
For 16 year old Solomon ‘Solly’ Perel, surviving the Second World War was all about concealing his foreskin, or lack thereof. Everything else about him was adaptable; his clothes, his language, his winning looks. Even when brought before his classmates at the Hitler Youth academy for his head to be measured by his Nazi teacher, he was deemed to be the perfect Aryan specimen. But beneath his pants lurked the undeniable truth; a penis resembling a blood sausage following a desperate attempt to tie the remaining foreskin over it with string.
Such self mutilation is the culmination of a severe identity crisis in this true story of a Holocaust survivor separated from his Polish German Jewish family and taken in by the Russian Communists as an ‘orphan’ and then by Nazi soldiers as a sort of mascot. His chameleon-like transformation across enemy lines is made possible largely through his naivety but also due to the fact that he once lived above a cinema and harboured a secret desire to be like Clarke Cable. From observing the matinee idol, Solly learned how to act… and how to charm the girls. But when one of his sweethearts turns out to be a rampant anti-Semite hell-bent on having a baby for her Fuhrer, going all the way would not only be the ultimate deceit but his final undoing.
Marco Hofschneider is completely adorable as the confused young man at the centre of everyone’s attention, taking us through the trauma of his character’s abandonment and the stress of his ongoing deception. And Polish-born director and co-writer Agnieszka Holland handles her young lead with great sensitivity, casting his real life older brother Rene as his on-screen sibling Isaak. She also deftly contextualises his individual story within the epic drama of the rise of the Third Reich and its ultimate downfall. Initially shunned by the Germans, this film went on to win the Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Film and earn an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s a gripping tale full of complex human dilemmas that prompt us to ponder what we’d do in a similar situation were we to have the same sort of lifesaving breaks as he did.