Francesca Rudkin

Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Movie review: Wunderkinder

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The three child leads of Wunderkinder do a remarkable job. Photo / Supplied
The three child leads of Wunderkinder do a remarkable job. Photo / Supplied

Set in Ukraine in 1941, this World War II drama from the producers of Europa Europa tells the story of three children brought together by their love of music, and torn apart by a world gone mad.

Violinist Abrascha (Kolev) and pianist Larissa Brodsky (Burrell) are Jewish wunderkinders (child proteges) living in Ukraine under Russian rule. They befriend a young German girl, Hannah Reich, (Adamik), a budding violinist who lives in the town of Poltava with her family, and the three become inseparable.

When Germany declares war on Russia, Abrascha and Larissa's families hide the German Reich family in the local woods. Quickly though, the tables are turned as the German army arrives in town, and it becomes the turn of the Reich family to try to save their Ukraine friends.

Wunderkinder isn't a violent film, but it is at times chilling. When the Nazis arrive in Ukraine, full of excitement for their new mobile gas chambers, they cruelly flaunt their control over the locals' fate. The lack of physical brutality shown was a decision by German producer - and Holocaust survivor - Artur Brauner, who wanted to create a film appropriate for a younger audience as well.

Wunderkinder has played at children's film festivals around the world, but a warning - you would need to be a tough youngster to deal with this.

Regardless of your age, you need to pay attention to the characters during the scene setting of this film. There are a variety of languages spoken and it takes a while to identify who fits in where as the different sides within the story are revealed.

Ukraine is a unique and pretty backdrop, and the perfect setting for the film's twist where both Germans and Jews are persecuted. The music adds texture and the children - all quite new to acting - do a remarkable job. When it comes to expressing the theme of unprejudiced friendship, these three kids get the message across loud and clear.

First-time director Markus Rosenmuller has produced a mature, beautifully shot and performed film, but the measured telling of the story means that as horrific as it is, it doesn't quite have the same emotional impact as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Sarah's Key or The Pianist.

Stars: 3/5
Cast: Elin Kolev, Imogen Burrell, Mathilda Adamik
Director: Markus Rosenmuller
Running time: 96 mins
Rating: M (Contains adult themes)
Verdict: A chilling Holocaust story

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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