11/07/2012 01:54 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Popcorn Preview: The Flat

Film: The Flat (2011)
Cast includes: Arnon Goldfinger, Hannah Goldfinger, Edda Milz von Mildenstein
Director: Arnon Goldfinger
Genre: Documentary (97 minutes) Partially in Hebrew and German with subtitles, partially in English

"When I was a kid, every week I'd cross central Tel Aviv, climb the stairs and find myself in Berlin. Grandmother lived here for 70 years as if she'd never left Germany." Gilda Tuchler died a month ago and now her daughter and the grandchildren face the task of deciding what stays and what goes. Grandson Arnon has brought a video camera to document what they find: big things, small things, many trash bags for the dumpster. Gilda was quite a stylish woman, judging by the postage-stamp-size photos, the gloves, the clothes, the jewelry -- all the height of fashion in Berlin. "When I grew up, I realized that the really meaningful things were always left unspoken." Such as, Grandmother's devotion to her homeland. "She never mastered Hebrew. I didn't want to speak German. So we'd sit and chat in English." Of all the grandchildren, Arnon is the only one who hungers for family history.

Arnon's mother, Hannah, has a totally modern Israeli home -- not a single hint of anything old or foreign nor has she expressed any interest in family history. So there's nothing in the flat that she seems to want. Arnon makes progress slow because he wants to look things over before they go into the trash. For example, "What is Nazi propaganda doing in my grandparent's flat?" Why is there a medallion with a swastika on one side and a Star of David on the other? In his grandparent's things, Arnon keeps finding one name again and again -- an SS officer, von Mildenstein. It seems that Arnon's grandparents and von Mildenstein took a propaganda trip to Palestine that was reported in all the Nazi newspapers. As Arnon learns, the Nazis originally hoped to encourage self-deportation of Jews. So it's not a total surprise to find that for a short time, at least, Nazi interests and Jewish interests coincided. However, Arnon finds something more curious... letters from von Mildenstein long after the war was over.

It came as yet another surprise when Arnon finds von Mildenstein's daughter in Germany and gives her a call. She remembers the Tuchlers very well and even remembers Arnon's mother, Hannah. Little by little Arnon wades in deeper and deeper. Hannah has never been interested in family history, but the journey will eventually draw her in. It's an interesting story, to be sure. Had the family been a bit quicker to clear out the apartment, this story would have been lost forever. One can't help but wonder how many stories have been lost in the interest of good housekeeping. All too often we look at the primary historical narrative and assume that it applies to everyone from the era. It's stories like these that make us realize that many individuals have personal stories that, at first, seem to contradict the larger narrative. History is, in fact, made up of many strands that may seem incongruous, but are actually part of the larger fabric. The Flat is just that kind of story. And those little photographs Arnon found in the flat... he certainly never imagined that the daughter of a high-ranking SS officer would shed light on their significance.

3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
In the Tel Aviv apartment of Jewish immigrants from Nazi Germany, a grandson discovers mysterious connections to an important SS officer

Popcorn Profile
Rated: NR
Audience: Grown-ups
Distribution: Art house
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Amateur video
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & Thought provoking

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