We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Writer-director Helma Sanders-Brahms’ best-known film, Germany, Pale Mother, focuses on one woman and her young daughter, yet powerfully suggests the broader context of the catastrophic years 1939 through 1945. The central characters are based on Sanders-Brahms’ mother and the filmmaker herself; she was born in 1940, and her fictionalized counterpart begins commenting on the action from her mother’s womb. Yet the 1980 film expands its reach to justify its sweeping title, which is taken from Bertolt Brecht’s 1933 poem “Deutschland.” Fassbinder regular Eva Mattes vividly plays the mother, a pregnant newlywed whose husband departs for war as the story begins and eventually returns, now as ruined as the country he fought for. Although Sanders-Brahms renders her characters broadly symbolic, the most chilling sequence is simple and specific: Tramping desperately across Germany soon after its surrender, mother and daughter stumble upon an abandoned camp. The film screens at 6:30 p.m. at Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes’ Goethe Forum, 812 7th St. NW. $6.50. (202) 289-1200. (Mark Jenkins)