Mendel | Chicago Reader

Mendel

The realistic and the expressionistic are delicately balanced in this kid?s-eye view of a Jewish family from Germany who, having survived the concentration camps, relocate to Norway in 1954. Mendel (Thomas Jungling Sorensen), who was born after the war, knows his family is keeping something from him, a secret that seems connected to a mysterious photograph in his mother?s pocketbook. As his parents and older brother struggle with assimilation and survivor guilt, the question of how much Mendel ought to know about the past is passionately examined. Writer-director Alexander Rosler neatly exaggerates the other characters? behavior to demonstrate the boy?s perception of it, even as he makes their feelings—especially those of Mendel?s father (powerfully portrayed by Hans Kremer)—wholly credible. The scene during which the secret is finally revealed is breathtaking—not because the information is so shocking, but because the emotion is raw. Despite all the buildup, there?s no disappointing sense of anticlimax in this movie, which is optimistic partly because it dares to be bitter and depressive.

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