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In 1941 during World War II in the Ukraine, the young and highly talented violinist Abrascha Kaplan (Elin Kolev) and the no less gifted pianist Larissa Brodsky (Imogen Burrell) are celebrated as child prodigies of classical music. They play in all of Russia's great concert halls - before the party elite and even Stalin himself. Hanna (Mathilda Adamik), daughter of the German brewer Max Reich (Kai Wiesinger), is herself a talented violinist and wishes for nothing more than to be taught with the Russian "Wunderkinder." Larissa and Abrascha are reluctant to accept the German girl until their teacher Irina Salmonova (Gudrun Landgrebe) consents to teach Hanna - and a close friendship develop between the children. But when Hitler unexpectedly invades Russia, their friendship is put to a hard test.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If it isn't based on a true story, it seems as though it could have been, a story of humanity seen through the experiences of war. War, that endless source of such stories, whichever war, whichever century, brings out the best in us, to defend the worst in us. In this case, the emotional engine of the story is not the wonderful musical prodigies who play such beautiful music - it's the story of Russian Jews helping expat Germans and vice versa when Hitler's army invades.

The story is told in flashback, with a top and tail in the present, so most of the action is played out by the young actors; three fine performances, notably Elin Kolev as the talented violinist Abrascha Kaplan. His expressive face captures the joys and fears of his journey. Adults are stupid, he says at one point, the only explanation he has when his dear friend Larissa Brodsky (Imogen Burrell) asks him what is happening as the Germans invade.

The adults are important, too; Kai Wiesinger is great as Max Reich the expat German brewer caught in enemy land and suddenly a target by Ukrainian solders. Also excellent is Gudrun Landgrebe as the sensitive and sensible music teacher Irina Salmonova, and Konstantin Wecker makes a threatening as the SS Colonel Schwartow, whose knowledge and taste in music do not compensate for his Nazi behaviour.

Although there are a few stilted scenes and some clunky dialogue (as subtitled) the film stands up well as a wartime drama with familiar elements - but also with a slightly different approach. Emphasising it's exploration of innocence meeting evil, the film is dedicated to the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis.

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(Germany, 2011)

CAST: Kai Wiesinger, Gudrun Landgrebe, Catherine H. Flemming, Mark Zak, Michael Mendl, Gedeon Brodsky, Natalia Avelon, Rolf Kanies, Konstantin Wecker, Michael Brandner, Ingo Naujoks, Mathias Eysen, Brigitte Grothum

PRODUCER: Alice Brauner, Artur, Brauner, Hans-Wolfgang Jurgan

DIRECTOR: Marcus O. Rosenmüller

SCRIPT: Stephen Glantz, Kris Karathomas, Marcus O. Rosenmüller, Rolf Schübel


EDITOR: Raimund Vienken

MUSIC: Martin Stock


RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella Entertainment

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 6, 2012 (sneaks Aug 31 & Sept 2)

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