Film Review: ‘Generation War’

An overly melodramatic but fairly engrossing bigscreen version of Phillip Kadelbach's epic serial.


Volker Bruch, Tom Schilling, Katharina Schuttler, Ludwig Trepte, Miriam Stein.

Aired in three episodes on German TV, “Generation War” retains the feel of an epic serial in its two-part bigscreen form. Eight years in the making and nearly five hours in length, director Phillip Kadelbach’s overly melodramatic but fairly engrossing exploration of World War II-era German guilt and responsibility follows a quintet of young Berlin friends from the eve of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 to war’s end in 45. Limited U.S. theatrical play, beginning at New York’s Film Forum, will attract the arthouse-attending subset of WWII buffs, while ancillary action looks to pack more firepower.

Having triggered European debate over the savagery of German armed forces depicted (and the anti-Semitism of non-German characters), Kadelbach and screenwriter Stefan Kolditz can indeed be accused of providing undue narrative shortcuts even as the pic’s running time stretches far and wide. So, too, the movie can easily be read as a work of apologia, such is its tendency to simplify issues around the culpability of German soldiers and civilians alike.

The film (known as “Our Mothers, Our Fathers” in Germany) principally follows gung-ho careerist lieutenant Wilhelm Winter (Volker Bruch), who’s loved by a shy young nurse named Charlotte (Miriam Stein), and Wilhelm’s younger brother, Friedhelm (Tom Schilling), whose relative sensitivity is marked rather obviously by his love of poetry. One of the brothers friends, Greta (Katharina Schuttler), is an aspiring singer whose boyfriend, Viktor (Ludwig Trepte), is Jewish. When an SS officer blackmails her into sleeping with him, Greta is tempted to take the offer and realize her dream to be a star.

The five characters somehow manage to cross paths across miles and years as the film begins to resemble soap opera more than historical drama. Thesping is strong, particularly by Bruch and Schilling as brothers with opposite ways of dealing with the horror of combat, and by Schuttler as a Marlene Dietrich wannabe, although the movie’s standout achievements are technical. Battle scenes feel exceptionally harrowing thanks to Thomas Stammer’s detailed production design and David Slama’s sharp HD lensing.

Film Review: 'Generation War'

Reviewed on DVD, Minneapolis, Minn., Jan. 10, 2014. Running time: 279 MIN. Original title: "Unsere Muetter, unsere Vatar"


(Germany) A Music Box Films (in U.S.) release of a Teamworx Television & Film production, in association with Beta Film. Produced by Benjamin Benedict, Nico Hofmann, Jurgen Schuster. Executive producers, Katrin Goetter, Sebastian Werninger.


Directed by Phillip Kadelbach. Screenplay, Stefan Kolditz. Camera (color, HD), David Slama; editor, Bernd Schlegel; music, Fabian Romer; music supervisor, Hansjorg Kohli; production designer, Thomas Stammer; art directors, Alexander Wunderlich, Frank Herzog; costume designer, Wiebke Kratz; sound, Jorg Krieger; re-recording mixer, Holger Lehmann; special effects, Claudius Rauch, Adolf Wojtinek; visual effects supervisor, Denis Behnke; line producer, Tim Greve; assistant director, Jan Sebastian Ballhaus; casting, Nina Haun, Sarah Lee.


Volker Bruch, Tom Schilling, Katharina Schuttler, Ludwig Trepte, Miriam Stein.

More Film

  • Themba Ntuli and Ashley Lazarus

    Ashley Lazarus, Director of Apartheid-Era Cult Classic, Returns to Screen

    DURBAN–Director Ashley Lazarus, whose film about the interracial friendship between two young boys during the apartheid era became a South African cult classic in the 1970s, is set to return to the big screen with a film that builds on his life-long passion for early-childhood education. “Teacher Wanted” is the inspirational story of a teacher [...]

  • Channing Tatum

    Channing Tatum's Free Association Partners With Atwater Capital for Film Development Fund

    Free Association, a production company led by Channing Tatum, Peter Kiernan and Reid Carolin, has entered into a film development fund with Atwater Capital. The four-year $2 million revolving fund stipulates that Atwater will finance a minimum of five films with Free Association. Michael Parets, VP of production, will oversee the deal. Free Association will [...]

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    Box Office: Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Takes on 'Lion King'

    Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” will have to take on much more than a changing showbiz landscape. This weekend, the washed-up actor and his majordomo are battling Disney’s juggernaut “The Lion King” at the domestic box office. Tarantino’s R-rated auteur [...]

  • Margot Robbie Once Upon a Time

    Margot Robbie Says 'Barbie' Movie Will Put 'Positivity' Into the World

    Over the last 10 years, Margot Robbie has stepped into the skates of Tonya Harding, taken up the mantle of Harley Quinn and, next up, she’s playing the world’s most famous doll, Barbie. The live-action film is due out in 2020 and set to be written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, while Robbie serves [...]

  • 2018 NALIP Gala

    National Association of Latino Independent Producers Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary

    Ben Lopez has seen the future of the entertainment industry, and says it is the Latinx community. “In the next 20 years, we’re going to be prioritized — because not only will we have the numbers demographic-wise, we’ll have the spending power,” says Lopez, the executive director of the National Assn. of Latino Independent Producers, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content