Sunday, October 21, 2012

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What you see above is a coin with the unlikely combination of a swastika on one side and a Star of David on the other. It's the symbol of a seeming contradiction at the heart of a new film called The Flat, which I saw on Friday night. It's something I think most Permanent Record readers will want to see.

Here's the gist: Arnon Goldfinger is an Israeli filmmaker. After his 98-year-old grandmother dies, the family gathers at her Tel Aviv apartment to go through her belongings, and Goldfinger decides to film the proceedings. Things take an unexpected turn when the family discovers old letters, photographs, and other evidence indicating that his grandparents -- German Jews who had emigrated from Berlin to Tel Aviv in the late 1930s -- had been friends with a fairly prominent Nazi SS officer both before and after World War II. The relationship baffles Goldfinger, who spends the next several years trying to understand this Nazi/Jew friendship.

Along the way, he tracks down and befriends the Nazi's daughter and her family; learns for the first time that his grandmother's mother had been murdered in the Holocaust (making the friendship with the Nazi even harder to comprehend); finds references to the Nazi in Adolf Eichmann's trial transcript; finds a whole dossier on the Nazi in the German national archives; and so on. Coming along for most of this ride is Goldfinger's mother, who somehow had no idea that her parents had been friends with a Nazi or that her grandmother had been a Holocaust victim.

The result is super-duper-powerful film with lots of PermaRec-esque elements -- old objects with stories to tell, sleuthing, family histories, family secrets, and so on. There are also several points at which Goldfinger finds himself conflicted about whether to ask certain potentially explosive questions, which is something I've experienced quite a bit during the course of Permanent Record (although, thankfully, I've never been in the position of having to ask someone, "So just what kind of Nazi was your father?").

It's an excellent film, one that I'd recommend to anyone, but that I'd especially recommend to PermaRec readers. You can see some reviews here and here, and here's the trailer:

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