Extreme close-up: German film brings the spread of neo-Nazi gangs into focus
“Can I stop now grandpa?” the girl asks the kindly looking pensioner who greets her with open arms. “Of course you can, my darling,” he replies with a smile as he removes her rucksack. It proves to be full of wet sand. “You’ve done well, my little Kreigerin,” he tells her. It turns out that Marisa, the young east German girl, has just undergone some Hitler Youth-style military training enforced by the beloved grandfather she idolises. He is an unreconstructed Nazi who is convinced that the Jews have gained the upper hand with “their lies” since Germany’s defeat in World War II.
Fast forward a decade and Marisa, now in her early twenties, has her arms, chest and neck covered with Nazi Swastika tattoos. She and the ultra-violent gang of neo-Nazis she now belongs to are in the process of “doing” a train. Middle aged women passengers, who protest, are slapped in the face as the skinhead gang members storm through the carriages chanting “Sieg Heil” and giving the Nazi salute. A group of Vietnamese immigrants are set upon and brutally beaten up with baseball bats. Finally the guard is set upon and pushed off the train. The gang disappears laughing.
“Kriegerin”, by the young German director David Wnendt, went on general release this month. Less than six months ago, it would have been dismissed by many as an exaggerated if not fanciful depiction of the far-right skinhead problem which has been commonplace in eastern Germany since reunification over two decades ago.
But recent events have led critics to declare that the film an example of how fiction sometimes matches reality. Rolling Stone magazine hailed it as the “best film to come out of Germany for years”. Its screening follows last November’s deeply disturbing discovery of a far right hit squad comprised of neo-Nazi terrorists bent on murdering foreigners.