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    Neele Leana Vollmer’s Friedliche Zeiten – Peaceful Times

    By Tanja Meding | January 15, 2009

    The new year kicked off with another successful German Premiere screening at the Tribeca Cinemas. This time, German Films Service + Marketing’s NY representative Oliver Mahrdt presented Friedliche Zeiten (Peaceful Times) (2008) by emerging filmmaker Neele Leana Vollmer to a NY audience. Based on Birgit Vanderbeke’s book by the same title, this charming drama was adapted by to the screen by critically acclaimed screen writer Ruth Thoma (amongst many others, Rolf Schuebel’s Gloomy Sunday – Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod) (1999), Faith Akin’s Solino (2002), and co-author with Claudia Schreiber on Sven Taddicken’s Emmas Glück (Emma’s Bliss) (2006) – which won best screenplay at the 2006 Hamptons International Film Festival. Peaceful Times was theatrically released in Germany last October and celebrated its North Americana premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival – an annual hot spot for German films.

    Set in the end 1960s, Vollmer’s film tells the story of Irene Striesow, devoted housewife and mother of three, who together with her husband and children has recently left East Germany in search of a better life in the West. However, Irene is homesick and has a hard time adjusting to their new life. She reminisces about the good old days – and stumbles from one depressive episode to the next, always reminding her children that she will die young. Her husband Dieter is at a loss with her, and starts to spend more and more time away from home. So the burden of preventing their mother from committing suicide and keeping the family together falls onto the shoulder of the two older girls, Wasa and Ute. Vollmer elicits strong and convincing performances from the two young actresses, Nina Monka (Ute) and Leonie Brill (Wasa) – to a point where we wonder who is actually the mother to her children?

    Peaceful Times is peppered with socio-political references of the 1960s, like the Prague Spring as well as the student protests in West Germany. Experienced by the two young girls, these events become more personal than political – filling them with fear of an approaching war and the invasion of the Soviets, their mother’s neurotic obsession. The film takes us through numerous tumultuous ups and downs, until Irene eventually arrives home – and we, the audience, are rewarded with a peaceful ending. Convincing performances by the two character actors Katharina Schubert, as Irene, and Olive Stokowski as well as smaller roles for Andrea Dresen’s regular Alex Prahl as Dieter’s friend Karl and character actress Meret Becker – always worth watching –  round up the competent cast.

    For more information on the film, click www.friedlichezeiten.kinowelt.de.

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