After the death of her father, Hannah (Maria Schrader) is worried by her mother Ruth Weinstein (Jutta Lampe)'s erratic behaviour. There's her sudden conversion to the Jewish religion, insisting on the traditional 30 day mourning period for the whole family. She is disapproving of Hannah's South American fiancé Luis (Fedja Van Huet), who had been her father's protégé. Hannah heads for Berlin, where 90 year old Lena Fischer (Doris Schade), the mysterious woman in an old photograph still lives, to find out the truth about her mother's past. As a young woman then in her twenties, Lena (Katja Riemann) and Ruth (Svea Lohde), then a child, met in the Berlin street of Rosenstrasse, where women were demonstrating against the deportation of their Jewish husbands.
Review by Louise Keller:
Rosenstrasse is both a love story and an end to the estrangement between a mother and daughter. Despite abrupt jumps in time and place, we cannot help but be moved by the film, whose emotional heart is strong. Rosenstrasse is the name of a cobbled street in war-torn Berlin, where Aryan (non-Jewish) wives stood before the newly created prison for Jews, waiting anxiously for news of their Jewish husbands. If they learned their husbands were imprisoned there, there was some reason to rejoice... because they were still alive. Showing great courage by standing up to the Nazis, the women maintained the prisoners should be spared, on account of their marriage to Aryans.
Until the story gets going, a little patience may be required, especially in the opening scenes when we meet grieving German New York widow Ruth (Jutta Lampe), who to her family's bewilderment, has discovered 'Jewishness' overnight. She also insists on speaking German, the language she says which is the only thing she has left from her mother. She refuses to communicate or talk about the significance of the beautiful woman in the old photograph, pictured with Ruth as a young girl. In a bid to find out why her mother is behaving so, and loudly disapproving of her fiancé Luis, who her late father's liked, daughter Hannah's (Maria Schrader) sets about to find out the secrets of Ruth's past.
There are two central stories, one set in the present, the other set during the war. The most involving is that of Lena Fischer (Katja Riemann), a beautiful blonde pianist whose Jewish violinist husband Fabian (Martin Feifel) disappears. As she stands outside the prison in Rosenstrasse waiting, she bumps into eight year old Ruth (Svea Lohde), who is looking for her mother.
Back in the present, Hannah locates Lena, now elderly and still living in Berlin. On the pretext of writing a German history paper, Hannah asks Lena to talk about her life, hoping that she will mention Ruth. 'Girls were thin in those days too,' she muses. 'But not by choice.' Unlike her mother, who doesn't like to remember the past, Lena relishes in remembering every detail, and through flashbacks, we are swept back in time to the events through her eyes. We meet a couple deeply in love, tragically separated by the war. Music is used to great effect, and Fabian's favourite sonata for violin and piano haunts us. It is not until later that we realise the significance of the early flashbacks through Ruth's eyes, and these are the least effective.
I had goose-bumps in the scene when the emotional crescendo begins, as the full impact of the truth is realised by both Hannah and Lena. It's a poignant moment, and one that for me, makes some of the less successful jumps in the film worth persevering with.
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CAST: Katja Riemann, Maria Schrader, Martin Feifel, Jürgen Vogel, Jutta Lampe, Doris Schade, Fedja van Huêt
PRODUCER: Herbert G. Kloiber, Henrik Meyer, Richard Schöps, Markus Zimmer
DIRECTOR: Margarethe von Trotta
SCRIPT: Margarethe von Trotta, Pamela Katz
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Franz Rath
EDITOR: Corinna Dietz
MUSIC: Loek Dikker
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Heike Bauersfeld
RUNNING TIME: 136 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 2, 2005
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: October 26, 2005