In 1943, while the Allies are bombing Berlin and the Gestapo is purging the capital of Jews, a dangerous love blossoms between two women. Lilly Wust (Juliane Kohler), married and the mother of four sons, enjoys the privileges of her stature as an exemplar of Nazi motherhood. For her, this affair will be the most decisive experience of her life. For the other woman, Felice Schragenheim (Maria Schrader), a Jewess and member of the underground, their love fuels her with the hope that she will survive.
Aimee and Jaguar (the names the lovers give each other) is based on a real story, and in particular on Lilly Wust’s memoir as recounted in Erica Fischer’s best-selling book, published in 1994. Felice almost certainly died in the concentration camps. War is a time for desperate and risky love affairs, but theirs was so dangerous it was like an act of defiance against the law, the state, the world. For Lilly, love with Felice is a revelation.
At first she doesn’t even realise her new friend is a lesbian, and when Felice kisses her, she reacts with horror. On reflection, she is not so horrified at all. The first love scene is brilliantly handled by director Max Farberbock and his excellent actors, who manage to convey all the awkwardness, fear and overwhelming joy of the moment.
Kohler and Schrader deservedly shared the best actress prize at the 1999 Berlin Film Festival. Playing a housewife and unenthusiastic mother who indulges in meaningless affairs out of boredom, sexual frustration and an almost girlish romantic streak, Kohler makes clear the epic journey her character takes. Schrader plays Felice with a kind of doomed and reckless bravery. She knows she cannot get away with her deception forever, and when she is caught, she will not be just any Jew, but one who penetrated to the centre of the Nazi establishment. Germany, 1999. English subtitles.
Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 125 min.)