Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A review: "Aimee & Jaguar" [1999 Germany]

Max Färberböck's dramatic wartime romance "Aimee & Jaguar" is based on a true love affair that happened between a married mother of four and a young Jewish woman in Nazi Germany.

Lily (Juliane Köhler) was a darling of the Nazi establishment, mothering four children through her soldier-husband fighting in the Eastern front. But that doesn't stop her from having affairs with officers still stationed in Berlin - after all, she enjoys being the object of men's attention and admiration. And then she meets Felice (Maria Schrader) through her children's babysitter Ilse (Johanna Wokalek), also a close friend and lover of Felice. Vivacious and almost openly gay Felice becomes fixated with Lily - nine years older, from the moment she lay her eyes on her, and will go to extraordinary lengths to invent reasons to meet with, socialise, and seduce Lily, even sparking jealousy from her other female lovers. Felice belongs to that bohemian fringe of Berlin that had managed to survive even during Nazi Germany. But Felice also leads a double life - she works for a pro-establishment newspaper, but is also involved with the underground resistance by stealing secret documents and helping many Jews escape Berlin. Despite her Jewishness and political beliefs, she couldn't avoid falling in love with Lily.

Lily, taken aback initially by a woman's amorous advances, succumbs nevertheless to Felice's love letters and magnetic charm without the inkling that she's Jewish. They embark on a passionate affair - Lily will take on the name of Aimée, and Felice will call herself Jaguar in all their secret letters and rendezvous. But Felice's frequent disappearances, mostly on underground errands, will begin to bother Lily, until she confronts her one day. Felice's admission of her Jewishness and involvement with the resistance will only draw them both closer. They'll vigorously pursue their love affair by living every day as if it were their last, amidst all the bombardment and the ever loudening footsteps of the Gestapo homing in on Felice.

Until this film, lesbianism in Nazi Germany was confined to a twisted universe largely inhabited by the likes of Jesus Franco and Don Edmonds. In truth, gays and lesbians were put to death when discovered. But homosexuality not only existed in secret, but also thrived, as Aimee and Jaguar's story bears testament. Told through flashback, the film captures with historical accuracy a part of wartime Berlin not often shown - it's glittering night life that strived to keep pace with New York and London despite the Allied bombings. The authenticity also extends to the fine sound engineering that recreates the blasts, raid-sirens and falling bombshells - there's precious little in the way of visual effects, but the sound and editing more than make up for the lack of jaw-dropping visuals.


The Performances:
Maria Schrader and Julian Köhler project an intensity not often seen in films with lesbian interest, and are refreshing and beautiful to watch. Of special mention is Ms. Köhler in the scene where her character lets go of her inhibitions and embraces her homosexuality for the first time. When Felice tried to kiss Lily on an earlier occasion, she threw a tantrum and slapped her. But Lily couldn't dismiss and forget what happened, and her change of heart along with the air of anticipation is palpable the next time Felice visits her. There's nothing explicit in the scene, but it is intense all the same.

In the scene, we see Lily overwhelmed, by emotions she'd never experienced with a man before. She is afraid. She seeks the protection of Felice, who responds with a reassuring embrace. The duo not only deserved the many awards that came their way, but also won a seal of approval from the real Lily, who was 89 when the film came out. Here's a very informative article that quotes Lily's own version of events following their affair, in a Guardian article. Needless to say, the film is Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon.de DVD Link [Movie Card - PAL] | English subtitles


The Nudity: Maria Schrader, Juliane Köhler, Johanna Wokalek, Elisabeth Degen, and Heike Makatsch
There's brief nudity at the beginning from Maria Schrader (Felice), Johanna Wokalek (Ilse), Elisabeth Degen (Lotte), and Heike Makatsch (Klärchen) - they're friends who make some extra money by posing nude for photos meant to cheer soldiers on the front line. There's nudity in two sex scenes, from Maria Schrader and Julian Köhler.

Maria Schrader, Juliane Köhler, Johanna Wokalek, Elisabeth Degen, and Heike Makatsch nude in Aimee & Jaguar


No comments:

Post a Comment