APRIL 21-27

Narrated by director Jiri Weiss, this autobiographical feature begins with the travails of Emil, a ’30s Jewish-Czech teen-ager who’s sent off to visit his uncle, freethinking small-town obstetrician Dr. Ernst Fuchs (Michel Piccoli). Emil (whose fictional role parallels Weiss’ real-life one) doesn’t drop out of the story, but the focus shifts to Ernst, who’s just divorced his attractive, unfaithful young wife. Concluding that loyalty is preferable to beauty, Ernst decides to marry his longtime German-Czech maid, Martha (Marianne Sagebrecht). Though Ernst and Martha have little in common, the two grow together gracefully into a loving, if not exactly equal, relationship—until it’s threatened by Hitler’s imminent arrival. Many similar stories have been told, but this is too rich to ever seem generic. And if Martha’s fate is perhaps a little too poetic, Weiss undercuts it with a postwar epilogue that’s bitterly bracing. At the Biograph Theater, 2819 M St. NW. (202) 333-2696. (Mark Jenkins)