Film & TV

German Film Festival: From Hilde, With Love

The moving story of young German resistance fighter, Hilde Coppi.

It felt like I was peering into their inner world during the war, intimately close yet in many ways detached from it.

Nominated for Best Film at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, this biographical film is based on the life of Hilde Coppi (Liv Lisa Fries), a young German resistance fighter in World War II whose involvement in activist group Die Rote Kapelle (The Red Orchestra) eventually led to her arrest.

Hilde, alongside her husband Hans Coppi (Johannes Hegemann) were part of a network of resistance groups, united in opposition to the Nazi regime. There is not a lot of historical content in terms of how the group functioned and what they did, rather the wider historical facts are embedded in the plot where they relate to Hilde’s life.

The first scene starts with her arrest, quiet and unprovoking, and the interrogation process commences almost immediately. As she is being interrogated, using flashbacks and an overlay of typing, which represents the transcribing of coded radio transmissions for which she was later sentenced, the small group that she was part of is revealed. The plot covers everything from how Hilde first met Hans, how she became involved in the movement, and the events that followed her arrest.

The movie carries multi-award-winning Andreas Dresen’s distinctive style of directing. From Hilde, with Love is embedded with facts, but just like Dresen’s portrayals of fiction, it focuses on human connections. It is about people just being people, with the key focus of this compelling story being the love between Hilde and Hans. The film also humanises those in the regime to a certain extent, as being pawns in a system of which they have no power. Lisa Wagner as Frau Kuner through her stature, dress and expression depict this aspect well, aided by the skill of Judith Kaufmann’s cinematography.

Watching the film, I felt like I was in their private sphere during World War II, living in a place that was emotionally charged yet surreal. Despite them being intimately affected by the wider bureaucracy, they were also in many ways disconnected from it. Feeling the dreams, hopes, ideals and emotions of Hilde and Hans, as well as those close to them, the range of emotions and life goes beyond the effects of the war. It talks of babies, family, relationships, and marriage – all things that most audience members can relate to – rather than just about the war’s impact.

Fries’ portrayal in this film fits well with the context of this plot. She goes from scene to scene in a steadfast manner, creating the effect that their world is a bubble, a tiny speck in a larger world. Intense displays of emotions are limited to when she gives birth, or shown in an introverted and shy way, which I really enjoyed as more often than not a quiet hero is not credited enough in war films. In addition, it feels reflective of the space that Hilde would have been in, one that is based on survival rather than emotions.

Similarly, the dress, the hair, the food, and the grimness of her prison cell reflect the survival-like state her life became and contrasted starkly with the flashbacks of life prior to the arrest, many of which are scenes set in beautiful landscapes. In these flashbacks, there is sunlight, laughter, love, idealism, romance, fun, and mischief, essentially all the joys of youth. The crimes that the group were executed for seem like trivial youthful infractions, notwithstanding the strong ideology underpinning them.

From Hilde, with Love was written by Laila Stieler and the Coppi’s real-life son was engaged in the production process. The angle of the film was brilliantly delivered by talented director Dresen.

From Hilde, With Love is currently showing as part of the HSBC German Film Festival from May 15th to June 5th at Palace Nova Cinema Eastend and Prospect.

Click here for further details.

Click here for screening times, and to book tickets.

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