Opening 29 Sep 2011
Four days before the end of World War II in May 1945, seven Russian soldiers and their commanding officer take up residence in a German orphanage on an island in the Baltic Sea. The elderly German woman, who is in charge of 30 young girls as well as some helpers and her 13-year-old great nephew, Peter, resists, but she has no choice. From the top floor of the orphanage the Russians see that a large troop of Germans have set up camp on the beach. Both Russians and Germans are tired of the war and only want to get on with their lives. The only one still at war is Peter, who refuses to believe that the Germans lost. He annoys the Russian occupiers in little ways, especially when asked to interpret as he is the only one who speaks both Russian and German. He considers himself the protector of the prettiest blond girl, Anna, and hides her in the hay loft; he suffers jealously when she falls in love with a piano-playing Russian. The two nationalities of soldiers keep the peace until a drunken hoard of Russians show up. Suddenly, the original Russians and Germans find themselves on the same side in a shoot-out against the marauding Russian newcomers.
The real core of the story is the relationship between Peter and the commanding officer (Aleksey Guskov), who has lost his wife and children in the war. He respects the qualities budding in Peter which will make him a responsible adult, and he assumes the responsibility to protect and help the boy. Pawel Wenzel is extraordinary in his leading role as Peter; he reminded me very much of Jamie Bell as Billy Elliott. Director Achim von Borries also wrote the screenplay which examines right and wrong, friend versus enemy, individuals against the group, love, discipline and respect. Based on a true story from 1945, it was shot on location at the Baltic Sea. (Becky Tan)