Harlan – In the Shadow of 'Jew Süss': movie review
‘Harlan’ explores a German filmmaker’s Nazi-era propaganda movie and its effect on the extended family down the years.
(Page 2 of 2)
Of Harlan’s four surviving children (Susanne, a fifth daughter who married a Jewish photographer, killed herself in 1989), the most vociferously antagonistic is Thomas Harlan, a writer and filmmaker who has spent much of his life denouncing his father’s film as an “instrument of murder.” Thomas’s position is that “The inheritance of guilt involves having an obligation to deal with it,” and yet we see how this inheritance has not only inflamed him but broken him. He has made his anger his life.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
His other siblings – the actress Maria Körber; the architect Kristian Harlan; and Caspar Harlan, a filmmaker and environmental activist – are more lenient toward their father’s legacy. Maria wishes her father had apologized; Kristian, the least remorseful, at one time responded to the taunts of his classmates by renaming himself “Veit.” (Neither sibling apparently speaks to Thomas.) Casper seems the closest in spirit, though not in temperament, to Thomas.
Closer still is journalist and film critic Jessica Jacoby, the daughter of Susanne, who identifies as Jewish and who alone among the family believes her grandfather was actively anti-Semitic (as opposed to being a conscienceless opportunist who just got carried away). She pins this belief on the fact that Harlan’s first wife, who was Jewish and who ultimately died in Auschwitz, left him for another Jew.
Psychobiography of this sort runs throughout the film, and Moeller lets it all unspool without undue editorializing. Some of the ironies are flabbergasting. Harlan’s niece, for example, is Christiane Kubrick, the widow of Stanley Kubrick. She tells us at one point that her husband, who was Jewish, wanted very much to make a movie about Harlan. “After all,” he told her, “It’s my family, too.” Imagine what the director of “Dr. Strangelove” might have fashioned from this crazy quilt material! Grade: A- (Unrated.)
Other movie reviews