I watched two foreign films that at the core have the same theme: running from the terror of oppression.
“Friends Forever” is a German language film and got mixed reviews. It wasn’t in the same class as Fanny’s Journey, but it was very enjoyable. “Friends Forever” tells a story of two thirteen year old buddies, Alex and Ferry. They do everything together and as young teenagers they are interested in sex, but not with each other. They live in a small town in Austria. They get away with things because Alex has a fantastic voice and he always insists that Ferry performs with him. As the war end nears and the bombers take larger tolls, the boys are sent away to join the Hitler Youth. The Hitler Youth is a para-military organization, nothing like the Boy Scouts. I thought the bottom line was the age of fourteen to join, but as the war waged on they may well have lowered their standards.
“The Hitler Youth were used to break up church youth groups, spy on religious classes and Bible studies, and interfere with church attendance. Education and training programs for the Hitler Youth were designed to undermine the values of the traditional elitist structures of German society along with their privileges. Their training also aimed to obliterate social and intellectual distinctions between classes, to be replaced and dominated by the political goals of Hitler’s totalitarian dictatorship. Besides promoting a doctrine of classlessness, additional training was provided that linked state-identified enemies such as Jews with Germany’s previous defeat in the First World War, and societal decline. The Hitler Youth were indoctrinated with the myths of Aryan racial superiority and to view Jews and Slavs as sub-humans.” – Wikipedia
In actuality the sub-humans were those who killed and destroyed people and spread lies. Watch the trailer for “Friends Forever” on Youtube – youtu.be/vBMhwVGMwkI
Comments about the film liken it to “The Sound of Music,” a sentimental movie, where the Von Trapp family singers dance and sing a couple of songs and escape by going over the mountain. I feel the comparison is a little cruel. Both “The Sound of Music” and “Friends Forever” take place in Austria, but “The Sound of Music” in a musical, while “Friends Forever” is a buddy film even though the two buddies are in the choir. Like a good “Buddy Film” things don’t always make sense. What does come through is the Nazi fixation with Jews (Alex is an un-circumcised Jew), and the need to close eyes, lie, and look the other way when it is in the best interest of certain people or certain parties . . . namely those who have more power than others, or are seeking those powers to keep others down. These problems still exist today around the world, with no cure as yet for turning a blind eye.
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“Fanny’s Journey” is again about the Germans and Adolph Hitler’s fixation against the Jews. They were made the scapegoat for every ill that befell Germany after World War I. Jews also were blamed for other ills all across Europe. Hate and rumors never have to make sense. Under the guise of following orders issued by Hitler’s Germany following the fall of France, many French citizens willingly joined in with the persecution. Not all French did, and many French worked to save the Jews especially children. I watched the film and then gave Peggy a shortened version. She then watched and I re-watched the film. I will probably watch it again.
The film is closed captioned. Sometimes in films the words of the captions and the spoken words don’t match up well. If the dialog is too fast paced, it is hard to read and enjoy. In “Fanny’s Journey” I kept the sound up and read the captions easily while watching the action AND the captions. Everything flowed just as if I was watching AND reading in English . . . or not reading at all.
The children know there are frightening possibilities ahead, but they are relying on adults to lead them.
As the adult leaders left to draw off the human bloodhounds or were grabbed by the Germans or French gendarmes the weight of responsibility fell on Fanny. She became a full adult as she handled one crisis after another. There were tiny scenes where Fanny became a regular little girl, but you could see the responsibility accepted like a garment that she needed to wear.
I love the scene where the young ones have a chance to behave like the children they are . . . temporarily. You can feel the relief and the weight fall away.
Watch the trailer for “Fanny’s Journey” – imdb.com/video/vi3852843545
“Fanny is a Jewish girl in a French orphanage in 1943. When she and her friends are no longer safe from the Nazis, they try to flee to Switzerland. After their guide disappears, Fanny has to take the lead and help the other kids make it over the mountains.”
Fanny was played by 13 year old Léonie Souchaud. Souchaud has appeared in two TV series as well as two other films.
Review Comment from Red-125
“Fanny’s journey is a Holocaust film, and depicts a daring escape attempt as eight children, led by 13-year-old Fanny, try to leave France to reach Switzerland. (A fact not stated in the IMDb material, but told to us during the introduction, is that actually Fanny led 23 children as they tried to escape. Director Doillon wisely decided to lower the number so that we could get to know some of the children as individuals.)”
Review Comment from IMDB-account515233
“We were so struck by the nuanced acting of even the youngest children.”
At the roll of credits we get to meet the real life Fanny, now living in Israel (2016). In reality, Fanny saved almost two dozen children and not the seven we see her protecting and leading in the film. By reducing the number of children we get to see their individual fright and acceptance of an adult mantle and every once in a while we see the children in them come out to play . . . briefly. I highly recommend this film.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.
Gary Turney says
Thanks for the review, Don. Piqued my interest, I’ll give them a look. For anyone else interested, both are available on Amazon Prime.
Don Doman says
Thanks for commenting.
Please, let me know what you thought of them both.
Susanne Bacon says
Thank you for sharing these movies, Don. I never heard of them before.
As to Hitlerjugend, I think it was as of 1936 that it became obligatory for every German child aged 9 years and older to join. The girls had their own separate programs. In the last year of the war, the Hitlerjugend became part of the army. I had teachers who had to go to the Russian front or work with FLAK units as very young teens. Glad that the right side won the war …
Don Doman says
Thanks for commenting. Both films turn on being Jewish. I’ve watched them both twice, both were enjoyable and had us cheering for the young heroes. However, the film I thought you would really appreciate was “Datsche,” which was filmed in Potsdam and has a little more substance. I only watched it once, but am going to re-watch it tonight. Like the others it can be found on Prime. I would appreciate your thoughts on it . . . https://thesubtimes.com/2021/05/10/datsche-huck-in-a-potsdam-garden-movie-review/
J. Gordon says
When a German or Austrian boy reached 10 years of age, he was registered and investigated for racial purity, if qualified, inducted into the Deutsches Jungvolk (“German Young People”)
13 was the age a youth became eligible to join Hitler’s Youth, and they ‘graduated’ at age 18. During these years as Hitler’s Youth, they lived a spartan life of dedication, fellowship, and Nazi conformity, generally with minimum parental guidance. Upon their 18th Birthday, they became members of the Nazi Party, and served in the state labor service and the armed forces until at least the age of 21.
Don Doman says
Sounds like quite the experience. I can’t see our youth accepting the automaton regimentation, but then again many blindly follow fools.
Thanks for sharing.