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Aimee & Jaguar (Max Farberbock) 2000

Max Farberbockís first feature, Aimee & Jaguar, builds such a strong opening act that itís almost tragic when things settle into a happy groove. The film, which is stunningly acted by its leads, follows Lilly (Juliane Kohler), a somewhat repressed housewife to an Army solider, and Felice (Maria Schrader), a Jewish lesbian that seems embroiled in some sort of lesbian resistance, as they form a relationship in WWII Berlin. Obviously, Felice must keep her religion secret, but her sexuality is an added burden. She is forced to live a lie on so many levels that when she takes a convenient interest in Lilly (after ending up homeless), you canít help but question her motives. Lilly seems to have never before flirted with the idea that she is a lesbian, and her early scenes show her pursuing affairs with men in an apparent attempt to anger her away-at-war husband. Thereís a suggestion that her lesbianism is only her latest ploy to gain her husbandís attention. For both of them, any subversive act that they can perpetrate becomes a blow to the oppression that the Nazi regime has caused them to endure. The film walks a tightrope here, creating a giddy sense of danger that energizes the film as it piles on reasons why both of these characters need this relationship to work, and it manages to sustain a complex believability for an exceptional length of time.

I definitely felt the final half hour of the film became much less interesting, however. What was a startling example of the necessity to manipulate others and disregard their emotions in order to survive during the Holocaust descends into a bit of lesbian wish fulfillment. Itís as if weíre supposed to cheer these women for doing what theyíre doing while there's so much evil in their world. I suppose thatís a worthy thing to celebrate, but itís hardly an interesting one, especially since the audience knows the circumstances under which the relationship began, and that makes their newfound happiness seem delusional on some level. The film was based on a true story (though I am not sure quite how faithful what we see is to reality) so such complaints might be a bit unjustified, but thereís something to be said for knowing when to stop telling your story, be it fiction or nonfiction. As it is, it allows the blame for the relationshipís failure to shift to the ever-present bad guys of cinema, the Nazis, despite the extraordinary first ninety minutes of the film that exposed that failure as the result of the relationshipís faulty construction.

***

October, 2001

Jeremy Heilman