Review: ‘The Spring of Life’

Screenplay, Vladimir Korner, Cieslar. Camera (color), Marek Jicha; editor, Miloslav Liska; music, Jan Cerny; production designer, Jan Vlasak; costume designer, Evzenie Razova; sound (Dolby Digital), Jiri Meixner. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 15, 2000. Original Czech/German title: Pramen Zivota--Der Lebensborn. (Czech, Polish and German dialogue.) Running time: 107 MIN.

Screenplay, Vladimir Korner, Cieslar. Camera (color), Marek Jicha; editor, Miloslav Liska; music, Jan Cerny; production designer, Jan Vlasak; costume designer, Evzenie Razova; sound (Dolby Digital), Jiri Meixner. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 15, 2000. Original Czech/German title: Pramen Zivota–Der Lebensborn. (Czech, Polish and German dialogue.) Running time: 107 MIN.

With: Monika Hilmerova, Michal Sieczkowski, Johanna Tesarova, Vilma Cibulkova , Karel Dobry, Bronislav Poloczek, Josef Somr, Bozidara Turzonovova.

Based on the actual Lebensborn project, in which young Aryan women were groomed for breeding with Nazi SS officers at a remote Sudetenland sanitarium, “The Spring of Life” is a dignified, absorbing melodrama that, to its immense credit, dodges the lurid at every turn. Pic’s major plot twist makes this an obvious and provocative choice for Jewish as well as general fests, with specialized theatrical play possible and international tube exposure a natural.

Shortly after the Germans occupy Czechoslovakia, rural maiden Gretka passes a “biological race examination” with flying colors and is sent to picturesque Isolde Spa. There, she and other wholesome-looking young women are put through a rigorous social and physical training regimen, increasingly sinister point of which becomes clear when eager SS officers arrive. Unbeknownst to the sympathetic lesbian matron, Gretka becomes pregnant not by her shellshocked Aryan, but by the Jewish laborer son of the spa’s former owners. Thoughtful tone takes a cue from determinedly naive lead perf of Monika Hilmerova, coaxed by kidpic/tube helmer Milan Cieslar, who co-scripted with novelist Vladimir Korner (“Angel of Mercy,” “A Path Across the Danube”). Tech credits are lush.

The Spring of Life

(CZECH REPUBLIC)

Production

A Czech Television/Happy Celluloid production. (International sales: Czech Television, Prague.) Produced by Marca Arichteva, Milan Cieslar. Directed by Milan Cieslar.
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