DVD Review: Generation War

STUDIO: Music Box Films | DIRECTOR: Philipp Kadelbach | CAST: Volker Bruch, Tom Schilling, Katharina Schüttler, Ludwig Trepte, Miriam Stein, Christiane Paul, Sylvester Groth, Götz Schuber, Mark Waschke, Maxim Mehmet
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 5/6/2014 | PRICE: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray $34.95
BONUSES: Master Class Panel with the Generation War creators; 12-page booklet
SPECS: NR | 279 min. | Foreign language war drama | 1.77:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | German with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall


War movies, especially ones dealing with Nazis, might be the most overdone genre in modern cinema. It’s a tough one to tackle freshly and intelligently, as good and evil are so seemingly clear, the lines filmmakers must follow seem etched in granite.

Generation War scene

Katharina Schütttler, Volker Bruch, Miriam Stein, Tom Schilling and Ludwig Trepte star in Generation War.

Which is why the epic German TV mini­series Generation War directed by Philipp Kadelbach is so refreshing. Three 90-­minute episodes focusing on Germany’s campaign in Russia and Poland, it tells the story from the other side of the fence, making it essential viewing for Americans raised on Gestapo henchmen who have vays of making you talk. The original German title, Our Mothers, Our Fathers, cuts closer to the show’s core, as it tells the story of a generation that is almost gone in 2014 – a generation that has spent the better part of 70 years trying to forget. Generation War brings it all back into sharp focus, reminding us that many of these Germans we’ve been taught to despise were actually young, idealistic 20­-somethings who would have rather been dancing and drinking with their friends than running around in trenches firing at an enemy for reasons they never really embraced or understood.

Generation War ‘s story is basically well-­crafted melodrama, beginning with an oft­-used conceit: five friends, one of them Jewish, two of them brothers, have one more night of fun in the summer of 1941 before everyone goes off to war, promising each other they’ll reunite in Berlin come Christmas, once the war is quickly won. Of course, that doesn’t happen, and the five instead embark on individual tribulations that flip all their naive preconceptions on their heads. Their paths cross in conveniently coincidental ways throughout, serving as a reality check for their rapidly crumbling ideals and beliefs. You could criticize the film for employing such clichéd conventions if it weren’t for the fact that Kadelbach is clearly aiming to make an accessible, provocative series and not an esoteric work of art.

In this way, he has succeeded, creating something that has sent shockwaves throughout Germany and Europe, prompting inter­generational conversations about a topic few have dared tackle in the past seven decades. Generation War works because it forces the conventions we’re so used to seeing in television melodrama into the service of social commentary and philosophical discussion, giving you five characters who are both blameless and guilty, and showing quite clearly how humans reconcile being both free­thinking individuals and unconscious members of a collective they’re born into. How anyone can be expected to act nobly under such madness is a question Generation War poignantly asks without providing any tidy answers, and that’s a good thing.

Music Box Films usually does a nice packaging job with their 2­-disc sets, and this one is no exception, despite the lack of supplementary materials. The series spends most of its time on the personal dramas, forcing the audience to fill in many gaps about German social history throughout. For German viewers that may not be an issue, but Americans could have used a little help in the DVD extras explaining some of the more confusing parts of the story. Instead, we get a fairly superficial Q&A which isn’t bad, but barely scratches the surface of this heavy topic. It’s a minor quibble, however, when you get five hour of thought­-provoking drama.


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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.