Franz + Polina
DIRECTOR: Mikhail Segal | WRITERS: Ales Adamovich, Mikhail Segal, Vladimir Stepanenko, Maksim Trapo | CAST: Adrian Topol, Svetlana Ivanova, Tamara Mironova, Uwe Jellinek, Valentin Makapura, Erika Bulataya, Natalia Gorbatenko | Russia
Franz + Polina is a mess. The bare bones plot is that Franz, a cute man-child type (Adrian Topol; see: Ryan Gosling) who just happens to be German and in the SS and in Byelorussia in late summer 1943, deserts his unit because he’s fallen in L-O-V-E with Polina, a cute woman-girl type (see: just about any ingenue you’d care to name) who just happens to be a Byelorussian village girl whose village Franz’s unit has decided to burn to the ground after machine-gunning all the inhabitants. They hide out in the forest together afraid of being caught by either the Nazis on one side or the partisans on the other. But it’s all about L-O-V-E, you see, so it’s not so bad, which you know because the movie is shot in lush, oversaturated color and it’s accompanied by a John Williams-y Spielberg-flick score.
The movie starts with what’s meant to be an ironically idyllic scene of beautiful, blond, prepubescent and very naked boys with a few not quite as blond naked young men sunning themselves and splashing around a large pond out in the countryside, but instead of being idyllic it’s pervy and creepy. And it gets creepier when the young men get dressed, since their clothes are SS uniforms. That all happens under the opening credits and the film goes steadily downhill from there. The atrocities perpetrated by the SS, or what we see of them in any case, just sort of happen. Partisan reprisals are sort of hinted at, Jews apparently didn’t exist, and the war in Byelorussia looks like it sucked because people’s houses burned down so they had to go camping. The movie teeters on the edge of outrageously offensive kitsch but doesn’t quite topple over: it’s only tasteless and moderately offensive kitsch. The acting, for what it’s worth, is competent as is the directing, but it feels as though whole scenes and large sections of existing scenes were hacked away; the continuity, especially in the second hour, is shot to hell. (By the way, although the opening credits as a whole are in Russian, the title itself is not in Cyrillic letters: it is Franz + Polina, which is also how the film’s title appeared on the Russian-language website for the film. The DVD apparently gives the title as Franz + Полина.)