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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NOVEMBER CHILD

By: D.E.Levine

Director: Christian Schwochow
Producers: Jochen Laube and Matthias Adler
Co-Producers: Frank Evers and Joerg Schulze
Screenplay: Heide Schwochow and Christian Schwochow
Cast: Anna Maria Muehe, Ulrich Matthes, Christine Schorn, Hermann Beyer, Thorsten Merte, Adrian Topol, Christina Drechsler, Steffi Kuehnert, Juliane Koehler
Country of Origin: Germany
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Language: German with English subtitles

November Child is a fascinating debut by writer-director Christian Schwochow. Originally shown in Berlin in 2008 it's a selection of the Museum of Modern Art's Kino! at Thirty: New Cinema from Germany. Listings may be found at www.moma.org.

The action moves constantly over a 20 year span between the former East Germany and the same area today as a young German woman, Inga Kaden, searches for her roots. Inga, a librarian and member of her church choir in Malchow, was raised by her traditional grandparents to believe that her mother died by drowning when she was an infant.

Never knowing the identity of her father, she has led a fairly drab East German life until Robert, a creative writing professor from Konstanz, arrives in Malchow and tells her the story of his former student, a young woman named Anne, who escaped to the west with her Russian lover 20 years before, leaving her infant daughter behind.

Initially opening with a brief sequence in 1980 Malchow, north of Berlin, viewers meet Annalise Kaden, an East German woman in her 20s shown holding her infant daughter, Inga. Anna Maria Muehe plays the part of both the young mother Annalise and the present day Inga, with flashbacks from the present to 20 years before.

Inga, who after hearing Robert's story, confronts her grandparents, finds that they lied to her. The truth is they cut off all contact with their daughter and never showed her letters that were sent to them from the west. Angry over the 20-year deception that deprived her of her mother, Inga leaves with Robert to track down the mother she's never known.

As the story unfolds, via flashbacks, of how Annalise reluctantly left her child and was never able to retrieve her from her parents we follow Inga and Robert as they follow a trail that leads them to the Russian soldier Yuri with whom Annelise fled and to the identity of Inga's father.

Along the way we see how Robert is exploiting Inga. Eager to write a novel, he deliberately sought her out and is helping her while recording their search on the sly.

The main story is set in November and catches the chill of the cities, especially the bleakness of the former eastern territory. The story is tense as the mystery regarding Annalise, her love affairs and her daughter's story unfolds in the manner of a mystery captured largely by handheld photography and closeups that give the viewer the feeling of being an eavesdropper on the life of the two women.

Beautifully cast and played, the film is believable and emotionally touching hitting home with the message of how families were torn apart by the division between east and west.