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Aimee & Jaguar

Released: 1999

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 2 hr 5 min

MPAA Rating: NR

Director: Max Färberböck

Starring: Maria Schrader, Juliane Köhler, Johanna Wokalek, Heike Makatsch, Elisabeth Degen

It was written and directed by Max Färberböck, based upon Erica Fischer's book, chronicling the actual lives of Lilly Wust and Felice Schragenheim during that time period.

More effective are the film's impressive atmospherics.

Review by: SteveRhodes

Added: 8 years ago

As World War II enters its cataclysmic last act, the Allied bombers are reducing Berlin to rubble. The city's inhabitants, much like those in the recent end of the world picture, LAST NIGHT, have a fatalistic view of their future. They try to keep up a semblance of normalcy, going to the zoo and to the symphony, but they know that the next explosion may be the end for them. And for those of Jewish ancestry, a bullet by the Gestapo may get them even sooner.

Against this backdrop, Max Färberböck's AIMEE & JAGUAR, based on Erika Fischer's book, tells the true story of an unlikely lesbian love affair between Lilly Wust (Juliane Köhler), a married mother of 4, and Felice Schragenheim (Maria Schrader), a Jewish member of the underground. (The private names they used for each other were Aimee and Jaguar, hence the story's title.)

Lilly's husband, Günther (Detlev Buck), a frontline soldier, has visits home. Both husband and wife are openly promiscuous with neither doing a great deal to hide the fact. When Lilly catches Günther making out with Ilse (Johanna Wokalek), the children's nanny, he explains his action as the inevitable effect of a man's libido. The unflappable Günther does lose his cool when he first realizes that his wife has a female lover, which is the same reaction that Lilly has when Felice kisses her for the first time. Although Felice is an in-the-open lesbian, Lilly has always assumed herself to be completely straight.

As the prim and slightly silly Lilly, Juliane Köhler gives a strong performance with equal measures of fiery passion and frightened vulnerability. In contrast, Maria Schrader, as Felice, approaches her character with a certain detachment. The result is a love affair that's never quite convincing.

More effective are the film's impressive atmospherics. As bombers light the sky a burning red, the cameras pan over the monuments of the would-be invincible Nazi regime. When Lilly goes to the zoo to fetch her children, she walks past huge mounds of rubble in the streets. And, as the Berlin Philharmonic plays Beethoven's glorious 9th symphony, the concert is interrupted by an air raid, much to the consternation of the conductor, who demands, without success, that his players finish the movement.

After telling Lilly of the men in his unit who have died, Günther reveals his secret for his remarkable longevity at the front. "You have to duck first, that's the secret," he tells her. Lilly, however, doesn't duck, leaving luck to protect her. Loving her girlfriend openly and naively, she doesn't even realize that Felice and Felice's friends are Jews.

Like SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, the movie is bracketed by appearances of Lilly today. As she lives the last few years of her life in a nursing home, she still pines for Felice. Felice, a woman who always made the most of her situation, had a favorite word, "now." "I want lots of 'nows'," she said, and she lived her life accordingly, regardless of the bombs or the Gestapo.

AIMEE & JAGUAR runs 2:05. It is in German with English subtitles. The film is not rated but would be an R for sex, nudity and some violence. It would be acceptable for older teenagers.