Review: German-Norwegian film, ‘Two Lives’

“Two Lives” features the post World War II era in the 1990s, right after the Berlin Wall fell. The film, directed by Georg Maas, stars German actors Juliane Köhler and Liv Ullmann.

With a mixture of suspense and love, the story of Katrine Evensen and her family unfolds. “Two Lives” comes alive and grabs the viewers’ attention from the first scene to the last credit.

Mixed up with the wrong people, Katrine must try and do all she can to protect her loved ones and keep them from finding out the truth about her past.

Peacefully living with her family for the past 20 years in Norway, Katrine Evensen, played by Juliane Köhler, is a middle-aged mother and grandmother living in a rural country town in Norway when her life is turned upside down by a lawyer with good intentions.

When lawyer Sven Solbach, played by Ken Duken, approaches her and her family years later, asking for help in a case against the state of Norway for the lost war children, her life begins to crumble.

Taken by the Stasi as a child, Evensen eventually found her way back to her mother years later, but her escape from East Germany–formerly known as the German Democratic Republic–was not without danger and turmoil.

Katrine had never thought that her sordid past would ever come back to haunt her. But as it slowly resurfaces and begins to take away everything that she holds dear, Katrine must fight to keep what she has. “Two Lives” was a wonderfully directed and acted movie.

As usual, Liv Ullmann and Juliane Köhler did not disappoint. Not only did the actors portray their characters with finesse, but Sven Nordin, playing the role of the father Bjarte Myrdal, exuded heartbreak and love for his wife Katrine. The dialogue between the characters was splendidly translated into English. The early banter in the kitchen to the devastating end was well rehearsed and choreographed.

One important thing that can either ruin or restore a movie is its historical accuracy. And “Two Lives” was spot-on accurate.

Not only the clothing but also the style of the buildings was impeccable. Although the camera work for the film was wonderfully done for the most part, and the transitions were smooth and efficient, the flashbacks could have been improved.

The change in the tint of the film and the tinned sound of the voices was one of the only ways to tell that the characters had gone back to the past. The film itself appeared grainy and old, as if signifying the outdated time of the past, but the transition was so quick that it took the mind a few seconds to register what had happened.

The filming style may have changed during the flashbacks, but they were confusing in the beginning of the movie and hard to track. The film went from the present to the past and back again in a jumble of memories, and often showed the same scenes more than once.

The repetitive nature of these select scenes that were repeated added to the suspense of the film and brought about a brilliant reveal, but they were inserted into the film at strange moments. Thankfully as the film progressed the flashbacks started to shift into place with the storyline and became clear.

The German film “Two Lives” by Georg Maas is a spectacular cinematic work. I highly recommend it. The weaving of the past and present may be confusing, but the experience that the film gives is one that is to be cherished. It delves into a history of the Stasi that has rarely been talked about.

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