© farbfilm/Filmwelt

Walchensee Forever
Germany 2020

Opening 21 Oct 2021

Directed by: Janna Ji Wonders
Writing credits: Janna Ji Wonders
Principal actors: Norma Werner, Anna Werner, Frauke Werner, Janna Ji Wonders, Jazon Wonders

The Walchensee is the largest, deepest lake in the Bavarian Alps, south of Munich. It provides the background for five generations of a German family in this documentary. In 1924, Apa Werner and her husband establish the Bucherer Café on the shores of the lake Walchensee. They have two daughters of which one died young of the Spanish Flu. The older daughter Norma suffers under her strict mother, but eventually takes over the café. Norma’s husband leaves her to go to Munich and she raises their two daughters, near the lake. In the 1960s, the two girls are musically talented—singing and yodeling. They leave home to discover the rest of world, flying to New York and Texas, and crossing the Mexican border, performing the whole time, dressed in Bavarian-style dirndls. Back in Germany, Frauke meets up with Rainer Langhans, an icon of the 1968 hippie era. We follow them to an ashram in India, then back to Mexico City for a spiritual conference called “The Unity of Man.” Frauke has other affairs and dies of a mysterious accident. In San Francisco Anna has a relationship with Jazon Wonders and their daughter Janna is born in California. Janna grows up in their original home at the Walchensee, and decides to give us this, her first long film. She also welcomes a baby daughter into the fifth generation.

We watch Apa, Norma, Anna, and Frauke in various phases of life up until the present time. Janna interviews her grandmother Norma (at age 104) and her mother Anna. She talks with Rainer Langhans, in bed, ill with cancer, as well as Jutta Winkelmann, also a partner of Langhans, who helped establish their commune or harem, where women lived together. The family always returns to the lake in the Alps and to the café, which still exists. Anna discusses what is “home” or, in German: Heimat. Does it originate through a certain place or person? “Home is in the hearts, not of this world.” Most amazing is the huge archive of letters, diaries, photos and 8-mm films, which Janna Ji Wonders consulted and exhibits in the film. Musical talent runs through all of the generations. The men in the family play a smaller role. Following this example, we could present our own families in a similar manner, but, like the Werders, we must patiently and continuously collect family information for our own archives. Think about it. Walchensee Forever premiered at the 2020 Berlinale.  (Becky Tan)

The theaters below show films in their original language; click on the links for showtimes and ticket information.
Interviews with the stars, general film articles, and reports on press conferences and film festivals.
Subscribe to the free KinoCritics monthly email newsletter here.