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Friday, 07 December 2012 00:00

Surprising historical revelations come to light in ‘The Flat’

Surprising historical revelations come to light in ‘The Flat’ rottentomatoes.com
Written by Diane Carson
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  • Director: Arnon Goldfinger
  • Dates: Opens December 7, 2012

After close elderly relatives die, surprising discoveries often await their families as they sort through items kept, perhaps treasured. But after the death of his 98-year-old grandmother Gerda, nothing prepared writer/director Arnon Goldfinger for the window that opened for him on a past his grandparents, Gerda and Kurt Tuchler, never talked about.

Arnon details his investigation in his documentary “The Flat,” named after his grandparents’ apartment in Tel Aviv. Émigrés from Berlin in the early 30’s to then Palestine, Gerda and Kurt returned to Germany several times after the war and, as Arnon discovers, kept up a strong friendship with Leopold von Mildenstein. He, it turns out, worked in no small way with Adolph Eichmann, as well as Goring and Goebbels. This perplexing connection between two Zionist Jews, as they are described in the film, and an SS Officer propels Arnon’s search, helped considerably because Gerda kept everything, as several observe.

Sorting through Gerda’s flat begins quite humorously as her relatives find dozens of gloves, suitcases, coins, and clothes, including a bizarre animal collar. It also reveals scrapbooks of letters, newspapers, and photos that encourage Arnon’s curiosity and lead him to unravel a thread that leads to Mildenstein’s daughter Edda, still living in Germany. As the past becomes increasingly clearer, the film’s focus shifts to Arnon’s mother Hannah and her reaction to her parents’ activities and knowledge. She repeatedly says she didn’t know and doesn’t care, appearing decidedly unemotional as information accrues. As provocative, Edda resists acknowledging what Arnon finds in East German archives, as Arnon himself questions his own responsibility to reveal what he learns.

The issues expand as “The Flat” progresses and soon encompasses much more than Gerda’s history, inviting us to consider knowledge, responsibility and the impact of the past on the present in obvious as well as subtle ways. Among several documentary awards, “The Flat” also received the Israeli Film Award for 2011. With dialogues in English, German and Hebrew with English subtitles, and English voiceover narration. At a Landmark Theatre.

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