This enormously impressive film ranks as one of the best of countless pics dealing with the rise of Nazism in Germany in the early 1930s.
Based on Fred Uhlman’s autobiographical novel, drama is set in Stuttgart in 1933 and deals with the growing friendship between two schoolboys from different backgrounds: Hans (Christian Anholt), son of a Jewish doctor and World War I vet who, till now, was considered a pillar of the community; and the aristocratic Konrad (Samuel West), who’s led a sheltered life, taught by private tutors, and who finds himself stimulated by the intelligent, sensitive Hans.
At the beginning of the year, portents of what’s to come are few: small groups of Nazis march in the streets; a friend advises Hans’ father to leave before Hitler takes over. Gradually, as the year progresses, the Fascist movement takes hold.
The long central part of the film is framed by a present-day narrative in which Hans, now Henry Strauss (Jason Robards), decides to return to Stuttgart to locate his parents’ grave and to discover what happened to his old friend.
Director Jerry Schatzberg has made what probably is his best film to date, a sober, thoughtful pic that recreates a seemingly authentic world of 56 years ago.