Family Secret Comes To Light In 'The Flat'

Oct 19, 2012
Originally published on October 23, 2012 1:03 pm
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A film called "The Flat" has made its way to the United States after becoming a hit in Israel. The movie is Israel's top-grossing documentary of the year, and it won that country's best documentary award. Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan brings us his review.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: The flat is an apartment in Tel Aviv belonging to Gerda Tuchler, the grandmother of director Arnon Goldfinger. When she dies at 98, seven decades after emigrating from Germany, the entire family gathers to decide how to dispose of the possessions of a lifetime. Everything changes with a shocking discovery: buried under decades of detritus, the family finds copies of Der Angriff, or The Attack, a virulently pro-Nazi newspaper edited by Joseph Goebbels himself and dating from 1934.


ARNON GOLDFINGER: What is Nazi propaganda doing in my grandparents' flat? The newspapers tell the story of a Nazi who travels to Palestine. You can see him gazing from the ship at impish little Jews at the shore. But there are also pictures of Jewish pioneers drying the swamps, plowing the land...

TURAN: It gets even more unnerving. The filmmaker's grandparents were good friends with a Nazi Party functionary and his wife for years. The friendship resumed after World War II ended. The grandparents visited them in Germany, even though what the Nazis had done was well-known.

At this point, "The Flat" turns into a detective story, as Goldfinger follows up leads to try and figure out this friendship. He unearths family secrets so upsetting he isn't sure who to share them with. Some of the themes "The Flat" addresses have been dealt with before, like why one generation asks questions about the Holocaust that another generation does not.

But the director has more potent topics on his agenda. One is the human capacity to compartmentalize unpleasant information. The other is the reasons friendship can survive what would seem to be a devastating reality. No definitive answers are possible to the questions "The Flat" raises, which makes them all the more provocative.


GREENE: Kenneth Turan. He reviews movies for MORNING EDITION, and also for the Los Angeles Times.

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