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Am Ende Kommen Touristen by Robert Thalheim

 

What could a young German be looking for in Auschwitz ? Evocation of a wandering youth, Am Ende Kommen Touristen pushes right where it hurts. Where the traces of history, little by little, are vanishing. Such will be the fate of the suitcase belonging to Krzenlinski, an Auschwitz survivor. A suitcase refused by museum curators, as time has erased all of its historical imprints. Damaged, denied, rejected, this suitcase symbolises a tragic past which is difficult to fight against.

Robert Thalheim, a young auteur noted for his first feature film Tout ira bien (released in France the 16th of May), the story of a young, solitary dreamer who is somewhat a loser, here follows the traditional line of contemporary German cinema, re-examining German history with a lighter touch, free from guilt. The director was inspired by his own years of civil service spent in Poland to write the story of Sven, a young German who has chosen to do volunteer work in Auschwitz. More or less a drifter in this town where everything is history, he is confronted by the past of his country. He is taken aback by the violence of comments directed at him by a young Pole in a bar : “Hey lads, the German army’s come back to Auschwitz !” The incident is however self-contained. Sven remains impassive, distracted by the young Polish tour guide Ania. He distances himself from Krzeminski, finding him hostile and difficult, and seems dumfounded when he hears him pronounce a phrase in German. It is not until an encounter between the survivor and some young German students that the historical reality resurfaces in the mind of the young volunteer. One of them questions the old man : “Did he really get a number ?” Only then does Sven open his eyes. He questions Ania on the difficulty of living daily in a place where the worst of human atrocities have occurred. She replies immediately : “And you, what do you feel as a German ?”.

Underneath its apparently light approach, Am Ende Kommen Touristen provokes and questions the younger generation. To avoid simply becoming a tourist, but to act as a citizen, conscious of the historical reality of one’s country, at the same time looking towards the future… No small task for young Europeans.

Laure Croiset

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