STARS (1959) [Feature]

East Germany/Bulgaria (MIFF 1960 , Programme 15)
Director: Konrad Wolf

Set in a small Bulgarian town in 1943, Stars is the story of a strange, unhappy love affair. This is what happened in the foothills of the mountains . . . A sergeant of the German Wehrmacht, a clever, ironic German, is weary of war and ceased to believe in anything long ago. Only when he is brought face to face with a mass murder does he find his way back to reality, and finds his own small niche in this life. His path is difficult: Sergeant Walter must break off his friendship to find love; and he must lose his love to discover the truth. The girl he loves is a Jewess, one of the 30,000 Greek Jews, confined in a concentration camp and on the way to those crematoria from which there is no return. Ruth's faith was belief in the good and belief in those people who would see to it that the frightfulness of fascism should vanish for ever. Walter learns slowly, too slowly. Ruth's conviction is that he who loves humanity must be prepared to do something about it; if you only stand by, you become an accomplice in crime.

This interesting co-production, so German in feeling and yet, in fact, the first major film to come out of Bulgaria, is sincere and was made with sensitivity and goodwill. Its many controversial elements are handled on a completely emotional, lyrical level. This approach results in some remarkable effects of mood (especially in the exteriors and the depiction of the Jewish community), some moving situations (Ruth's return to the ghetto after her first meeting with Walter) and a certain delicacy in relationships.

Perhaps a little over-fond of dialogue, Stars, nevertheless, has warmth and sadness, a determination to face a difficult period with honesty, which makes it an important and promising venture.

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