Review: The Last Supper
by Teresa Vena
- German director Florian Frerichs presents a complex family drama dealing with a deep incision in both German and global history
Set in Berlin in 1933, the first feature film by Florian Frerichs, The Last Supper [+see also:
film profile], brings together a Jewish family and their friends for an initially unremarkable dinner that will turn out to be the last one they have in the “old” Germany. On the eve of Hitler's rise to power (30 January), the atmosphere is tense, and the first attacks on their fellow Jewish citizens have already been committed. Among the victims is one of Aaron Glickstein's (Bruno Eyron) daughters – but the entrepreneur is too engrossed in his business and the sudden death of his main financial partner to notice the changing dynamics shaking up his family.
While Glickstein's youngest daughter, Leah (Mira Elisa Goeres), wants to move to Palestine in order to flee the increasingly hostile and antisemitic environment in Germany, his younger son Michael (Patrick Mölleken) sympathises with the doctrines of Hitler and means to join a parade in his honour after dinner. Glickstein himself also shares most of Hitler's points of view, seemingly unaware of the existential danger they pose for the Jews. Two camps are gradually formed around the table, triggering an inevitable and unwinnable conflict. An extremely oppressive scenario thus takes shape against the backdrop of real-life historical events, and this specific family’s dramatic confrontation is just one of millions of others also taking place around the country.
Unfortunately, The Last Supper fails to pull the audience in and paints rather a rigid picture. The director uses the aesthetics of an intimate play by focusing mainly on one setting – namely, the dining room of the Glickstein family. He shoots with dimmed lighting and moves the camera up close to the characters. The movie depends almost entirely on the dialogue and the performances by the actors. While the first half of the film appears fairly clumsy in this regard, the second half picks up the pace and reveals the talents of a reasonably capable cast. In fact, the strength of the movie lies in the presence of the protagonists and the interactions between them.
Although The Last Supper has its flaws on the purely artistic level, it stands out thanks to how it treats its subject matter. There is no black-and-white separation of the characters into either victims or culprits; rather, it attempts to break down the specific and xenophobic motivations behind the opinions, beliefs and discussions revolving around National Socialist doctrines. Considering the current socio-political climate, with right-wing parties constantly gaining ground, the film clearly aims to take a firm stance. Nonetheless, the question remains of whether it will actually be able to reach the audience it is gunning for.
The Last Supper is arriving in German cinemas today, 30 January – the same day as Hitler's historic rise to power in 1933. It was produced by Warnuts Entertainment and is being distributed worldwide by Apollo Film.
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