“Germany, Pale Mother”examines the etiology of German Nazism and shows it in a way that it makes it relevant for countries that have never experienced a full blown systemic totalitarianism. Helma Sanders-Brahms (HSB) makes an accent not on Nazi ideology or politics and policies, but on its psychology. She represents German Nazism as a potential universal psychopathology that can afflict countries and nations with a self-image that may look incompatible with any type of fascism. HSB enriches her psychological analysis by emphasizing how human subjectivity is wounded by fascist environment and way of thinking and how a human being as an independent agency capable of making his/her own judgments about life and his/her moral decisions, is made crippled by fascist/totalitarian behavioral norms and values.

HSB as director and author of the screenplay makes the viewers living in today’s democracies to see in the mirror of Nazism… themselves, and the same with Germans who survived Nazism but didn’t understand what fascism is, didn’t share Nazi worldview and tried just to adapt and survive the “difficult times”. To experience the film is a spiritual ordeal which we, the film viewers today, regardless of what country we live in, must go through to be able to prevent our country from falling into a totalitarian abyss. The film’s plot is involving and interesting, but the film is full of intriguing and intellectually demanding visually symbolic images and their combinations, which enlarge the narrative into numerous philosophical allusions and psychological points. Of course, these images can be ignored by not too attentive and not very cognitively oriented viewers who still will surely be involved in the dramatic intensity of the psychological indulgences of the young Nazis, endurance of the apolitical philistines, people’s attempts to adapt to what contradicts not only human nobility but the sober logic of human commonsense, and in mass participation (in spite of people’s fears, doubts and despair) in the existential theater of the absurd just because “all are invited”.

We see how violence, carried out by political extremists is really a very effective way of repressing people’s conscience and how utopian passions unleashed by the megalomaniacal propagandists are even a more effective tool of making people solemnly mad and righteously cruel just from feeling that possessing of high-tech military technology and stupefying obsession with power and wealth will make it possible for one nation to rule over the world.

The film is an epos, a socio-psychological research, a personal romance of, in a way, beautiful people Lena and Hans, violently turned upside-down by a life transformed into hell, and, finally, a chronology of martyrdom as the apotheosis of existentially spiritual redemption.

Eva Mattes (Lena) and Ernst Jacobi’s (Hans) emotions are universally human, and so is their ability to be liberated from many-faced and many-headed demon of fascism. But it is their daughter, whom we see from her childhood is a real role model for those today who are willing to stand up for democracy against totalitarian tendencies within it.

Helma Sanders-Brahms – 1940-2014 (with baby) on the set of “Germany, Pale Mother”

Basic social rituals, like marriage and wedding ceremonies, continue after Nazis got power, and Lena and Hans want to keep at least their personal relationship intact from the surrounding barbarity. They nurture their love amidst total destruction.

Hans taken to military service in Nazi army, is encouraging Lena not to lose belief in the basic goodness of the world.

During one of his short military leave Hans and Lena decided to have a baby in the middle of the war – as a part of him to be always with her during his absence.

Deutschland, bleiche Mutter
Lena and her sister, and many other German women, while cleaning Berlin ruins after the war, are not only happy that war is over, but unconsciously and, often, consciously (but silently), enjoy that Nazis have been defeated.

The war was coming to an end, and in many places Red Cross started to supplant swastika.

Helma Sanders-Brahms, Eva Mattes playing Lena, and the baby “playing” the role of Lena and Hans’ daughter are relaxing in between shooting.

Posted on Oct 26 2013 –   Helma Sanders-Brahms’ “Germany, Pale Mother” (1979) – Some Sociological and Psychological Aspects of German Nazism by Acting-Out Politics