The collapse of a modest family farm in a German-speaking community in northern Argentina provides "Germania" with a potent starting point, but tyro director Maximiliano Schonfeld's impressively mounted drama has little follow-through.

With: Lucas Schell, Brenda Kruetli, Margarita Greifenstein, Benigno Lell, Alejandra Lell, Arnoldo Wagner, Gabriel Zaragoza, Damian "Chori" Regner. (German, Spanish dialogue)

The collapse of a modest family farm in a German-speaking community in northern Argentina provides “Germania” with a potent starting point, but tyro director Maximiliano Schonfeld’s impressively mounted drama has little follow-through. Though it’s only partly realized, what’s onscreen indicates a filmmaker with potential, particularly if he can match his technical command with interesting, fully addressed ideas. With its heavy Euro overlay on a Latin America-set tale, this is prime fare for continental buyers, and can look forward to an excellent fest journey.

Bucolic opening images of young people playing in fields outside a German enclave in Entre Rios state belie a grimmer reality that has beset one family farm. A pair of sequences set in the family’s chicken coop reveal in breathtaking detail that the fowl are dying off with startling rapidity. A plague has set in, and there’s little the family’s mother (Margarita Greifenstein) and her strapping son, Miguel (Lucas Schell), and daughter, Brenda (Brenda Kruetli), can do to reverse it.

Indeed, plans are already under way to depart for a German burg in Brazil, and much of “Germania” is about the three family members — the dead father is buried in the local cemetery — saying goodbye to their nearest and dearest in the tight-knit community. Schonfeld (whose short “Invernario” was set in a similar environment) stages the farming conditions with expressive, even terrifying realism, including the burial of a dead cow and a palpable feeling of the earth in full rebellion against the humans trying to control it.

Miguel’s friends come together for one last game of soccer and a dip in the creek, and the scenes carry with them the poignant sense of childhood drifting away. For the most part, however, the human side of the tale is far less convincingly delivered.

A town party, complete with polkas and beer steins, could easily be set in any rural Teuton village, with only the peculiar and distinct German dialect (a rough equivalent could be rural Quebecois French) indicating that we’re not in the old country. But because non-pro Greifenstein is such a wooden, inexpressive actor, this sequence is considerably less affecting. A detour into half-baked melodrama, involving Brenda and a local worker, is particularly misjudged, crying out for further dramatic development. As it is, the story feels stranded between feature and short, indicating the possibilities of a bigger tale that never actually happens.

Schell, a non-pro like Kruetli and Greifenstein, capably gives “Germania” a core of sadness, though there should be more of him onscreen; his is a young, rough-hewn presence with dirt under his fingernails. Kruetli, however, registers with less emotional impact than she should. Supporting roles, played by local non-pros, such as the women singing in the town church where Miguel serves as an altar boy, sometimes result in a near-docu atmosphere.

Such spiritual inferences, plus the German-in-Latin America setting, draw unflattering comparisons with Carlos Reygadas’ “Silent Light.” But “Germania” looks and sounds fabulous, with world-class cinematography by Soledad Rodriguez and a detailed, potent soundtrack crafted by soundmen Manuel de Andres and Nahuel Palenque and composer Jackson Souvenirs.

Popular on Variety



Production: A Pasto presentation. Produced by Fernando Brom, Barbara Francisco, Maximiliano Schonfeld. Executive producers, Francisco, Brom. Directed by Maximiliano Schonfeld. Screenplay, Schonfeld, Rafael Cardelli.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Soledad Rodriguez; editor, Anita Remon; music, Jackson Souvenirs; production designer, Laura Gamberg; costume designer, Cecilia Jacob; sound (stereo), Nahuel Palenque; supervising sound editor, Manuel de Andres; re-recording mixer, De Andres; assistant director, Eduardo Crespo. Reviewed at Buenos Aires Film Festival (competing), April 16, 2012. Running time: 70 MIN.

With: With: Lucas Schell, Brenda Kruetli, Margarita Greifenstein, Benigno Lell, Alejandra Lell, Arnoldo Wagner, Gabriel Zaragoza, Damian "Chori" Regner. (German, Spanish dialogue)

More Film

  • Leonardo Dicaprio Once Upon a Time

    Leonardo DiCaprio's Earth Alliance Commits $5 Million to Amazon Fires

    Earth Alliance, an environmental initiative backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, has committed $5 million toward the preservation of the Amazon rain forest following an alarming surge in wildfires. After launching Sunday, the organization’s emergency Amazon Forest Fund is working to support local partners and indigenous communities in their efforts to protect the sensitive habitats within the [...]

  • (from left) Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)

    Box Office: 'Hobbs & Shaw' Scores $102 Million Debut in China, Nears $600 Million Globally

    Universal’s “Hobbs & Shaw” returned to first place on the international box office charts, thanks to a massive $102 million debut in China. The “Fast & Furious” spinoff, starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, collected another $120 million overseas, boosting its foreign tally to $441 million. “Hobbs & Shaw” is nearing the $600 million mark [...]

  • Angel Has Fallen

    Box Office: 'Angel Has Fallen' Rises to No. 1 With $21 Million Debut

    “Angel Has Fallen,” the third chapter in Lionsgate and Millenium’s action franchise starring Gerard Butler, had a stronger opening weekend than expected, collecting $21.25 million during its first three days of release. Those ticket sales were enough to top domestic box office charts, bumping last weekend’s champ, Universal’s comedy “Good Boys,” to second place. Starring [...]

  • Amanda

    ‘Amanda’ Takes Home Best Int’l Film at 15th Sanfic

    SANTIAGO, Chile    French director Mikhael Hers’ “Amanda” scooped up the Best Int’l Film award Saturday (Aug. 24) at the 15th Santiago Int’l Film Fest (Sanfic), which reported a 20% audience uptick in the past two years and continues to grow its reputation as the most vibrant and prominent film festival in Latin America’s Southern [...]

  • disney d23

    Cruella, Kit Harington and Black Panther's Return: Everything We Learned at D23 Day Two

    Not to be outdone by the avalanche of series orders and casting announcements bolstering the new streaming series Disney Plus, Walt Disney Studios showed off its film wares in a marathon presentation at D23 on Saturday. The Anaheim, Calif. expo brought star power, if perhaps fewer surprises than Friday’s presentation, as fans in princess and [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift'The

    Taylor Swift Downplays Association With Harvey Weinstein

    Taylor Swift’s association with disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was among the topics the singer addressed in a revealing new interview with The Guardian. Weinstein held producer credits for the movies “One Chance” and “The Giver,” both of which featured Swift — in the former, a song, and in the latter, a supporting role. She [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content