“Michael Moore presents Planet of the Humans, a documentary that dares to say what no one else will this Earth Day — that we are losing the battle to stop climate change on planet earth because we are following leaders who have taken us down the wrong road — selling out the green movement to wealthy interests and corporate America. This film is the wake-up call to the reality we are afraid to face: that in the midst of a human-caused extinction event, the environmental movement’s answer is to push for techno-fixes and band-aids. It’s too little, too late. Removed from the debate is the only thing that MIGHT save us: getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption. Why is this not THE issue? Because that would be bad for profits, bad for business. Have we environmentalists fallen for illusions, “green” illusions, that are anything but green, because we’re scared that this is the end—and we’ve pinned all our hopes on biomass, wind turbines, and electric cars? No amount of batteries are going to save us, warns director Jeff Gibbs (lifelong environmentalist and co-producer of “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Bowling for Columbine”). This urgent, must-see movie, a full-frontal assault on our sacred cows, is guaranteed to generate anger, debate, and, hopefully, a willingness to see our survival in a new way—before it’s too late. Featuring: Al Gore, Bill McKibben, Richard Branson, Robert F Kennedy Jr., Michael Bloomberg, Van Jones, Vinod Khosla, Koch Brothers, Vandana Shiva, General Motors, 350.org, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Nature Conservancy, Elon Musk, Tesla. Music by: Radiohead, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Blank & Jones, If These Trees Could Talk, Valentina Lisitsa, Culprit 1, Patrick O’hearn, The Torquays, Nigel Stanford, and many more.”
This is what David Vickrey writes:
“I’ve always been interested in Exilliteratur – books by or about writers and artists forced to flee Germany during the Nazi era. Much, of course, has been written about the exile community in Southern California – including Michael Lentz’s terrific Pazific Exil (2007). Anna Seghers wrote about her exile in Mexico in Ausflug der toten Mädchen, and many of Hilde Domin’s poems deal with her exile years in the Dominican Republic. But very little has been written about the German exile experience in Cuba – which is one reason I was keen on reading Ursula Krechel’s Landgericht (literally “District Court”), which won the German Book Prize in 2012. The central figure in the novel, the Jewish barrister Richard Kornitzer, is forced to flee the Nazis and finds sanctuary in Havana for ten years.
But Landgericht is also about homecoming – returning to the “scene of the crime”, to the country that cast Kornitzer out and wrecked his family forever.
Life was good for Kornitzer and his wife Claire in the Weimar Republic. He was a talented young lawyer and judge with a brilliant career ahead of him, while Claire was a successful businesswoman, with her own advertising agency that created and placed ads in the booming German cinema. Together they lived in a chic apartment in central Berlin and had two children. But things quickly went downhill once the Nazi’s came to power: Kornitzer was forced out of his job and could no longer practice law, Claire, although of Aryan background, had her business stolen from her because of her marriage to a Jew (which she refused to renounce). Soon it was clear that Richard and the children (Halbjuden) were in mortal danger. The children were sent to England via the Kindertransport while Richard was able to secure safe passage to Cuba – without his wife Claire.
Ursula Krechel takes the reader back and forth in time. The book opens with Kornitzer’s return to a ruined Germany after 10 years in exile, hoping to resume his career where it had been suspended by the Nazis. He is given a post in the provincial civil court in Mainz – a city that had been 95% destroyed by the allied firebombing. And the descriptions of the deprivations of those early postwar years are well done. Kornitzer quickly learns that the Third Reich never really ended: his colleagues on the bench in Mainz are all either former members of the NSDAP or Mitläufer. Kornitzer is treated as an outsider – both as a Jew and because of his special status an Opfer des Faschismus. And he is not alone as an outsider in new “democratic” West Germany. Krechel often brings real historical events and figures into the novel. Such as Philipp Auerbach, a Jew and former chemist who survived Auschwitz and who after the war worked tirelessly for restitution to the victims of Nazi crimes. Kornitzer watches with great interest as Auerbach is persecuted by former Nazis in Bavaria. Eventually he is unjustly convicted and imprisoned by a court comprised of ex-Nazis, and commits suicide. Kornitzer cynically sees what is necessary to succeed as a Jew in postwar Germany:
“Am besten war es, man verhielt sich mucksmäuschenstill. man tut seine Arbeit, man fiel nicht auf, gab sich nicht als ehemaliges Mitglied einer Spruchkammer, als Jude, als Trauernder um Philipp Auerbach zu erkennen, gab keinen Anlass, antisemitische Äusserungen, Taktlosigkeiten, Nadelstiche auf sich zu ziehen. Am besten, man war wortkarg, sah nicht nach links und nicht nach rechts und tat seine Arbeit. Am besten, man war tot.”
I very much enjoyed the middle part of Landgericht, which deals with Kornitzer’s exile in Havana. Life for the German/Austrian exiles in Cuba was hardly a tropical vacation. Many ended up in a jungle detention camp where conditions were deplorable. Kornitzer is able to find work as a secretary for a corrupt attorney and fares somewhat better than his compatriots. Ursula Krechel obviously conducted quite a bit of research on Cuba in the 1940s and its treatment of European refugees. Eventually Kornitzer meets and falls in love with a young school teacher. The affair produces a daughter – Amanda – who Kornitzer never has a chance to see before the war ends he returns to Germany.
Kornitzer becomes frustrated and embittered by his inability to get ahead in the “new” postwar order. His children are now more English than German and are estranged from their parents. Claire’s health was ruined after her business was confiscated and she was forced to work in a dairy during the war. Kornitzer pursues every legal and bureaucratic channel to recover the life that was stolen from him – the back and forth with the various courts and agencies becomes somewhat tiresome to the reader. But Ursula Krechel makes one brilliant move towards the end of the novel: Kornitzer is bitter that he was passed over for a promotion and in a public court hearing reads out Article 3 of the German constitution (Grundgesetz):
Niemand darf wegen seines Geschlechtes, seiner Abstammung, seiner Rasse, seiner Sprache, seiner Heimat und Herkunft, seines Glaubens, seiner religiösen oder politischen Anschauungen benachteiligt oder bevorzugt werden.
(No person shall be favoured or disfavoured because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith, or religious or political opinions.)
That simple act of reading out loud a passage from the constitution is viewed as scandalous, and Kornitzer is forced into early retirement. He spends his retirement relentlessly seeking restitution and – despite an appearance by Amanda – dies embittered man.
This novel would have benefited from a good editor – it is about 150 pages too long. Nevertheless, Landgericht is an important novel and deserves an English translation. Landgericht was a recently made into a two-part film for television, which hopefully will be available to American audiences at some point.”
2 thoughts on “Ursula Knechel’s ‘Landgericht’, review by David Vickrey”
We watched this movie yesterday. Peter and I, we both thought it was a good one. I read the plot in Wikipedia and it says beautifully in a condensed way everything about the theme of the movie. I copy here the plot the way I found it in Wikipedia:
“Louis Waters is a widower. One evening he is visited by Addie, a widow who lives next door. She invites him to sometimes sleep over – platonically – talking in bed to combat loneliness. They try it out, and like it. The community finds out, but assume it’s a sexual relationship. After Louis’ coffee shop friends make a joke, Louis walks out mad. Addie’s friend Ruth asks her a few questions. To stop the gossip, the two have Sunday lunch together at a restaurant.
Addie’s son Gene dumps his seven year old child Jamie with her. Louis helps her care for him, sets up his train set and gets Jamie a dog. The boy even sleeps with the elderly couple in a real family setting. After Gene learns of the relationship, he takes Jamie back even though his wife has left him. Louis and Addie go on a trip and get around to having sex.
Addie falls down and ends up in the hospital. Her son wants her to move in with him and Jamie. She decides that family must come first and the couple spend their last night together. Both she and Louis are back to sleeping alone. So Louis sends her the train set and a cell-phone. After getting into bed, she calls him and they start talking as old friends. And the movie ends.”
- Robert Redford as Louis Waters, a widower who lives next door to Addie, and Holly’s father
- Jane Fonda as Addie Moore, a widow who lives next door to Louis, Gene’s mother, and Jamie’s grandmother
- Iain Armitage as Jamie Moore, Gene’s son and Addie’s grandson
- Matthias Schoenaerts as Gene Moore, Addie’s son and Jamie’s father
- Judy Greer as Holly Waters, Louis’ daughter
- Phyllis Somerville as Ruth, Addie’s friend
- Bruce Dern as Dorlan Becker
- Fred Osborne as Frederick’s Cafe Owner
. . . . .
Personally I do like movies that deal with relationships among people, be it romantic relationships or family relationships or important friendships. There is some of all of this in this slow moving movie.
I guess there are all sorts of ways to combat loneliness in old age. It seems to me we are bound to feel lonely without some significant personal contacts.
How to keep Track of Time? Yes, how do you do this? Eighty + years of impressions, incidents and experiences, having seen so many different places, having met so many different people. Does it all become a blur in the end?
For young people time often seems to drag on slowly, slowly. But ask any elderly person, the answer is, that time passes awfully quickly. What is a week? A week, well, a week just flies away. I try to recall what we did last week, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, four weeks ago. Four weeks ago? Is it four weeks ago that we stayed in Sydney for a few days for our daughter’s wedding? Is it two weeks ago that we travelled to Benalla to stay there for a week with our son? What about doctor’s appointments? Did we have three different doctor’s appointments during the past week? Quite so. That is, I met another specialist for the first time last week, and Peter also met another specialist for the first time last week. Peter also saw his GP, the one that he has been seeing for many years. He was the first one who explained to Peter that according to some test results a ‘tumor’ ought to be investigated. Some 18 months later he looked at some other test results and concluded that there were some problems with his heart. And so it goes.
We left Benalla on Monday on the night train from Melbourne, arriving Tuesday morning back home. At 9 am on that day we left again for my doctor’s appointment in Wollongong, going to Wollongong by bus. We both felt rather tired after having spent a night sitting up on the train! Anyway, the following day, Wednesday, Peter saw his GP who is now in Corrimal (not in Dapto anymore). I went along with Peter. The visit at the Corrimal Medical Centre was over quickly. So well before lunchtime Peter drove us to the Leisure Coast fruit shop in Fairy Meadow where we did some serious shopping.
Thursday would have been the day for my slow movement exercises here in Dapto. But I felt awfully tired and gave it a miss. I felt that it was really good for me not to have to do anything on that day! Peter however felt on that day well enough to locally do a bit of shopping to get the ingredients for a quark cheesecake. And in the afternoon he actually did bake this cake while I was resting in the bedroom. – This cake baking seems to have been a kind of relaxation for him.
Friday morning Peter found the time to go through the whole house with the vacuum cleaner. Then he went off to Wollongong to see the surgeon who may do a heart bypass operation on him. It turned out, before he is about to do this, Peter should go for some more scan tests!
I stayed home on Friday. After having done some wiping of the floors, I did get some lunch ready and I also made preparations for my afternoon visitors. It was my turn to have the four ladies over for our Friday afternoon games of Scrabble and Rummy. Also on Friday, our daughter Monika dropped in at 5,30 after work. Talking to our daughter about a lot of things was a good finish of the day.
And yesterday, Saturday, was a very good day too: Our daughter Caroline and son-in-law Matthew came to visit!
Is it only two more weeks to Easter Sunday? So it is, and I am looking forward to some family visits at Easter time!
Peter and I saw today this Diane Keaton movie about Hampstead. Peter had first to go to the Private Wollongong Hospital for an appointment with his podiatrist who is fitting him some insoles. These insoles might help him with his walking. The podiatrist spent with Peter a bit over an hour. It was already 11,45 when we left the hospital. This left us less than half an hour to make it to the GALA in Warrawong to see the movie. But we were lucky. We still made it on time. This movie was well worth seeing. I am glad we did make it.
“Starring Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson, Hampstead is a heartwarming romantic comedy set around the beautiful Hampstead Heath in London, a quiet piece of countryside in a vast metropolis. Living in a lovely old apartment on the edge of the Heath, American widow Emily Walters (Keaton) feels like she is drifting aimlessly through life. Then she meets Donald (Gleeson), who has lived harmoniously on the Heath for 17 years in a ramshackle hut. When property developers attempt to destroy his home, Emily steps up to defend Donald in the escalating battle and soon finds that, despite his gruff exterior, there is something special about this gentle and unconventional man.”
Gorgeous shots in Greece, Calais and elsewhere, many filmed from drones, create a visual tone poem that proves both epic and highly human
“The international co-productions of the mid-20th century often boasted myriad shooting locations in far-flung places. Who would have guessed the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei would pick up where moguls such as Sam Spiegel left off.
Ai’s new film, Human Flow, while certainly epic in scope, is not exactly meant as entertainment. This is an urgent, deep soak in the current refugee crisis. There has been no dearth of documentaries about this topic, but this one comes closest to understanding the totality of the issue. . . . .”
I copied the above from The Guardian