GENERATION WAR is a television series of three episodes and is being labelled as the German side of the story for Band of Brothers. Salty Kernel, JACK KEMP, is our war film expert, he loves them, is drawn to them and is completely absorbed by them. When he writes to me and says stuff like “wow, first episode and I am obsessed with this show” you know you have a good show on your hands. GENERATION WAR is out this WED 12th Feb on DVD and thanks to the amazing people at HOPSCOTCH ENTERTAINMENT ONE we have 5X copies of it to give away to you all. The DVD runs for a total run time of 273mins and is rated MA15+. See after the review to find out how to enter. And now enjoy Kernel Jack’s review.
KERNEL JACK’S REVIEW
“We went off as heroes and now we are murderers,” – L.T Wilhelm Winter
This three part series is being depicted as the German Band of Brothers – rightfully so. Director Phillip Kadelbach’s “ Generation War” gives a very unique and somewhat unheard version of WWII through the eyes of five friends whose reconnecting paths and experiences illustrate the moral difficulties that many faced as ordinary people involved in the rise and fall of the “Third-Reich”.
The show starts off introducing our characters. Wilhelm (Volker Bruch), a strong and level headed lieutenant headed for the eastern front, accompanied by his younger and more sensitive brother Friedhelm (Tom Shilling) who is more interested in books and art than warefare. Madly in love with Wilhelm is Charlotte (Miriam Stein) a young nurse looking forward to joining the Red Cross. Greta (Katharina Schuttler), a very talented singer who longs to become another Marlene Dietrich – and her Jewish boyfriend Viktor (Ludwig Trepte) a very talented tailor working for his father.
We first see the group together in 1941, Celebrating the start of what they believe to be a short and heroic war. Smoking cigarettes, drinking champagne and listening to jazz/swing music that is forbidden by Nazi law. It’s the first time we get a sense of the un-voiced love between Wilhelm and Charly and the forbidden but not secretive love between Greta and Viktor. Even when they receive a visit from a Gestapo Officer – who confiscates their music and warns Greta about the shame she is committing by dating a Jew – It doesn’t damper their moods or their youthful optimism, completely oblivious to the horrors that await.
Upon reaching the war Wilhelm and Friedhelm are twisted and scarred by the horrors they face – Wilhelm struggles to follow the evil Nazi regime and Friedhelm – who upon seeing the senseless inhumane execution of a jewish child by the SS – becomes an evil killing machine. Charly’s humanity is put to the test when she finds out one of her nurses is a Jewish Doctor on the run from the SS, Greta does everything she can to save Viktor’s life by seducing a German Gestapo Officer. Viktor narrowly escapes a train headed to a concentration camp only to be picked up by the Polish Partisans where his German/Jewish heritage is not well received.
I wont begin to try to tell you more about the story as it will ultimately give away too many spoilers. However I will say this. The series is a labyrinth of emotions and character arches that changes the way you see the German people during the Third Reich.
Whilst told from the German side of the story it never denies the evil of the Nazis in WWII, However it does limit it to the SS and Gestapo Officers. An attempt to normalise the story and give a sense of proportion, I guess. It shows that the majority of the army and citizens were opposed to the genocide and those who weren’t were being fed by the propaganda. There is good and bad on both sides of war and this series does an amazing job at portraying it.
The series has a very Saving Private Ryan like look and feel to it. Cinematographer David Slama (Dead in 3 Days, Hindenburg) opted a traditional hand-held, high contrast and de-saturated colours for the look of the series. There is a reason why its used a lot in war films – It just works. It gives us a raw and somewhat journalistic feel to the film, Allowing us to get up close and personal with the characters and never staying in one place too long. Kadelbach has done a terrific job with his Spielberg like approach to film – intercutting scenes of extreme violence and terror with scene of tenderness and kindness.
Another thing worth mentioning is stellar performance from the cast and their use of facial expression and body language to depict the mood of the scene. What do I mean by that? Well, Throughout the series we get a sense of character interaction and how they feel towards each other by simply watching their expressions. Many times we see their moral compass going haywire just by the look on their face. One stand out moment is when Viktor has to make the hard decision between saving a train full of prisoners headed for a nearby concentration camp and risk being killed or leave them on the train and save himself. There is maybe one or two sentences spoken and yet you feel the internal battle he is fighting. Nothing is over the top or under sold, the cast have done a perfect job depicting the struggles of ordinary humans twisting and turning as their humanity is slowly destroyed by the disasters of this war.
Now, down to some of the finer details – this film isn’t without its faults. There is more than one time where all five protagonists are in the same location at the same time and somehow just seems a little too forced, perhaps for the sake of a happy relief for the audience perhaps? At one point in 1941 we see the German MG 42, a machine gun that didn’t come into service until 1942. Also there have been a few military buffs mention that there were some timeline/geography issues with the German lines during certain time periods – Whilst this can be viewed as lazy writing or poor military advising, for me these are all small incidental mistakes far out weighed by story.
I really loved this series and I highly recommend it. It has everything you have come to expect in a war series – Courage, Bravery, Patriotism and Heroism, contrasted with disaster, survival, the horrors of war and in the middle an abundance of love and friendship. Battle scene littered with waves of gunfire and artillery shells laying waste to everything.
Generation War really sets itself apart from most war series with its great performances and well structured story lines. Its difficult to intercut and wind so much together without loosing quality or audience interest but Kadelbach has done it well. By far one of the best war series I’ve seen.
Directed by Philipp Kadelbach; written by Stefan Kolditz; director of photography, David Slama; edited by Bernd Schlegel; music by Fabian Römer; production design by Thomas Stammer; produced by Nico Hofmann.
Cast: Volker Bruch (Wilhelm), Tom Schilling (Friedhelm), Katharina Schüttler (Greta), Ludwig Trepte (Viktor) and Miriam Stein (Charlotte).
NEW COMPETITION ENTRY RULES
With special thanks to HOPSCOTCH ENTERTAINMENT ONE to win one of the 5 x copies of the DVD of GENERATION WAR you need to either like and share this post on Facebook or retweet/ favourite it on Twitter, you then need to leave a comment below stating the answer to the following question:
What is your favourite war film or TV series of all time and why?
If you do not have Facebook and Twitter then get with the times old timer – You can still enter, leave your entry below and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org telling me you don’t have social media
Prizes will no longer be awarded to first in first served. It will now be a game of skill and selected purely on the thoughts of the judges, said judges being the Salty Kernels.
Comp is closing this Friday 14th February, 2014.
The prizes will be sent in the next week. Good luck! Oh, and minor housekeeping – huge apologies for overseas readers, this competition is only available to Australian residents.