Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SPRING OF LIFE (2000) d. Milan Cieslar

Reviewed by
Tracy Hook

Spring of Life is a surprisingly tasteful film released through Redemption. I'm using "tasteful" rather loosely and I usually do, because I have such low standards in cinema. I went into this film expecting very little, but I got a good return on this one. It's a film that I would definitely revisit again and I recommend it to anyone who's looking for a good story of forbidden love. Yes, a love story as a Redemption release, believe it or not.

Our story begins in the Sudetenland in 1939. As you students of history know, the Sudetenland is the much disputed area of Czechoslovakia that Hitler wanted so badly, because the inhabitatants were racially German. Hitler wanted a unified Germany and to unify the "Master Race". The main character, Gretka, is choosen by the Nazis, as a worthy example of the Aryan race. She is taken away from her family and sent to a spa. Or what she thinks is a spa and she later finds out the diabolical Nazi plan of Lebensborn, where racially pure chosen women will breed with racially pure SS soliders. This is all too much for a nice Catholic girl like Gretka and she later plans an escape. She also encounters the "spa's" resident hostage, Leo, who is Jewish.

Leo is punished when Gretka points him out as the reason she fell through the ice while on her way to the spa. She feels guilty and tries to stop the SS soilders from punishing him, but of course the ruthless Nazis have no mercy on him. Leo comes close to death after this treatment. Gretka nurses him back to health and in the process, she falls in love with him. Like Romeo and Juliet, it's a forbidden love that has a tragic ending.

I thought this would be a straight exploitation film, especially with the subject matter. I pictured sweaty blonde SS soilders heavy breathing all over Gretka. On the contrary, the characters, were all very polite considering the situation. There's even a scene, where one of the chosen women is chastized for having a dirty mind. When I viewed the included interview with author Michael Leapman, I found out why this was released under Redemption. It is an exploitation film in disguise. The Lebensborn Project was a little less aggressive than what is shown in the film. Leapman explains that the project was merely an encouragement of SS soilders to mate with racially pure women. Even if this meant out of wedlock or in an adulturous manner. The mothers then went to a hospital-like setting during their pregnancy and while the baby was waiting for adoption. There was none of the forced sex that Spring of Life would have the viewer think. But the truth is so boring!

Redemption has come along way with their presentation. In the past, the busty vampire mascot of Redemption would give the viewer some background on a film. Her information seemed pretty accurate, but her black contact lenses were a little distracting. By including the interview with Michael Leapman, this DVD went up a few notches on the class scale. It's very informative and worth watching after the feature.

I can't recommend this more. I really enjoy Czech films, like Jan Svankmajer's surrealist extravaganzas and a great film called Divided We Fall (2000). It would make a perfect double feature with Spring of Life. Coincidentally, both films were released in 2000. Pop open a pivo and enjoy. (Pivo is beer in Czech, in case you didn't know).


1 comment:

matt o said...

nice review LEK! svankmajer's appreciated here as well, big fan!