Film Review: “Zwei Leben”, Georg Maas, 2012

Zwei Leben” or “Two Lives” is a film by Georg Maas and was Germany’s 2012 foreign language Oscar candidate. The film, which lasts about 95 minutes, is based on facts and fiction.

The film opens with a scene in which we see Katrine arrive at an airport, head for the ladies, and change her looks. She has arrived in what used to be the DDR from her home-country Norway. It is clear from the very start, that espionage is one of the themes of this film. Katrine cuts out names and burns papers.

The film then flashes back to a few months before the opening scenes, to explain why Kathrine/Ver left Norway. The case of Norway’s Lebensborn Kinder has reopened and a lawyer has contacted Katrine, her mother Asa, as well as Katrine’s daughter. Katrine is one of the few Lebensborn children who managed to trace her Norwegian mother. Her evidence will be crucial, but at first she does not want to become involved. The reopening of the case has triggered nightmares and Katrine feels threatened. Quite rightly, for ultimately the past, its lies, even the truth will destroy lives.

Lebensborn was a Nazi project. Its aim was to create a kind of super-race of blond, bleu-eyed people. Scandinavian women were forced or coerced into a relationship with – or as in this film, fell in love with – German soldiers. Usually, the children were born in special hospitals and during the war and shortly afterwards, disappeared to Germany. Many of these stigmatized children ended up in children’s homes in the DDR. The DDR used these so-called parentless children and sent many back to infiltrate into and spy on what actually were their home countries and own people.

The audience is quickly aware, that Katrine/Vera is a spy and may or may not be Asa’s daughter. This somewhat spoils the suspense – though there are plenty twists and turns. On the other hand, it is fascinating to see how Katrine/Vera develops from DDR Stazi star, into someone who ultimately chooses for the people she loves. One of the questions this film raises is also: what is a mother, what is a daughter, what is a mother-daughter relationship?

The most chilling fact however is, that Norway and other countries are now aware what happened to many of the Lebensborn children, but remain unaware of how many are still leading double lives.

“Zwei Leben/Two Lives”, Georg Maas, 2012. German/Norwegian/Danish spoken; 95 min.
With Liv Ullmann, Juliane Koehler, Sven Nordin, Julia Bache-Wiig.
Screenplay based on a novel by Hannelore Hippe.
Currently shown in cinemas in the Netherlands, Belgium, and other countries.

2 thoughts on “Film Review: “Zwei Leben”, Georg Maas, 2012

  1. A novel that treats a similar theme is The Lebensborn Boy by Roy Havelland (pseud. for Christopher McIntosh and co-author) (Vanadis 2014). Whereas Two Lives takes place in Norway long after the mission of the spy Katrine is over, The Lebensborn Boy takes place in Denmark at the height of the Cold War and involves a young Stasi Agent, Henrik, who is apparently the son of a Danish woman, Birthe Karlsson and a German soldier. We follow Henrik as he struggles to reconcile his Stasi Mission with the Feelings that grow in him towards the Karlsson Family. The Story moves grippingly from Denmark to the death traps of the east-west border, and from the Orwellian world of East Berlin to the the fetish Clubs of Hamburg’s St. Pauli district.
    The Lebensborn Boy, by Roy Havelland (Vanadis, 2014). ISBN 978-1500104450.

    • Thanks for the information. There are plenty non-fiction books which do not treat this awful fact as fiction and are good reads for anybody interested in this dark side of WWII occupation, or the just as dark history of the DDR.
      Try f.i. “The Lebensborn Experiment”, which can be obtained through Amazon.

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