Sunday 27 June 2021

Streaming on Netflix - Janice Tong reviews AND TOMORROW THE WORLD (UND MORGEN DIE GANZE WELT, Julia von Heinz, Germany, 2020)

Luisa (Mala Emde) with her best friend
Batte (Luisa-Celine Gaffron)

Julia von Heinz’s film poses serious moral questions for a world that has left its guiding principles behind.

Von Heinz and her husband John Quester (who co-wrote the script with her) actually met when they were in the Antifa group together in the 1990s, when they were the same age as the protagonists. This film has been a labour of love for them, and whilst it took 20 years to make, Von Heinz said that this deeply personal film puts forward a message that is even more urgent and important today. 

Collectively it is up to us, the generations who are currently contributing to and living in society, who need to learn our history, our civil rights and constitutional laws regarding the scope and limits of our sovereign agency. If there is a time to think through what is the right way to act; that time is now. 


This is not so much a call to disregard or fight against the limitations of law - the law is in place to serve the greater good and to set boundaries; but when the abolition of laws and introduction of bills that serve a singular interest occurs, it is our right to question.


The film explores the Antifa movement through a coming of age story. We are drawn into the life of the lead Luisa, wonderfully portrayed by Mala Emde (you might have seen her in the Season 3 of Charité), who was introduced to the activist commune by her best friend, Batte (played by Luisa-Céline Gaffron, whom I last saw in the TV sci-fi mini-series 8 Days). 


Luisa has had a privileged background (something of a gentry) though I would say she’s not of the upper-class, but of the ‘old’ world, where game hunting is a tradition rather than a wealthy person’s sport. You learn that she’s a good shot (her dad tells us this) and we can see that she certainly doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty gutting and skinning their kill - and with practiced and skillful motions - she’s done it all her life. But the rub here is that she’s a vegetarian, she corrects her dad who wrongly said she’s a vegan. Just from this banter, you get a sense that Luisa has a strong sense of what defining boundaries mean, a line is drawn and when you cross that line, you do this knowingly.


We learn that Luisa is also a first year law student (as is Batte), and it’s important to note that the film starts with a quote from Art.20, Par.4 of Germany’s Constitution, stating “The Federal Republic of Germany is a social and democratic state. All Germans have the right to resist anyone who seeks to abolish this constitutional order, if no other remedy is available.” The filmic insert in between this epigraph (broken out into its two sentences) is of Luisa throwing away her hunting rifle in a barren field, the no-man’s land of an underpass; and a flash forward in the film. The whole narrative comes full circle when the quote is repeated to us again, this time in Luisa’s voice at the end of the film, amidst the violence of the riot police who came to raid on their commune. The ensuing images of their clash is played out to the mournful aria of Verdi’s opera - La forza del destino, or The Force of Destiny, Act IV, the denouement.


Alfa (Noah Saavedra) and Luisa, finding each other,
and navigating their way in the world

But I’m ahead of myself. At the collective, Luisa desperately wanted to ‘belong’. They were young, peaceful and inclusive, they had a cause they cared about, a system of sharing clothes and bedding, they were making music and vegetarian meals, all seemed to be a great communal lifestyle. But after she was assaulted by a neo-Fascist during a rally, Luisa soon thought differently. She was traumatised by the event. Daniela Knapp’s handheld camera work is fantastic, and bears down on her face as we hear her sharp breaths and her constant fight to keep fear at bay. The way he filmed the action sequences too, also situates the viewer in the midst of it all.


Peaceful demonstration turns violent

After the assault, Luisa begins to be drawn in by a few of the collective’s more active members, including the charismatic Alfa whom she falls for. He is wonderfully portrayed by Noah Saavedra (I last saw him in the fantastic Netflix TV series Freud). He strikes a well-modulated role, sometimes the hot headed ‘alpha male’ inciting violence in the group’s fight against fascism; sometimes he’s more thoughtful and grounded. There are some beautiful moments of him and Luisa together. I’d like to think of his name as meaning ‘the beginning of something’ rather than as ‘might over right’. And ultimately, he is a flawed character, as we all are, in the process of figuring out right from wrong.


Alfa, his tech friend Lenor (played by Tonio Schneider) and Luisa form an unlikely trio who started to take matters into their own hands; and much to the disagreement with some of the groups’ leading members. This trio is further guided by an old revolutionary, Dietmar played by Andreas Lust, who acts as their moral compass and calming agent - they literally come through the battlefield to his home as ‘base camp’.


Lenor (Tonio Schneider), Luisa and Alfa
form an unlikely trio 

This very thought-provoking film, and it’s interesting to note that Von Heinz is also its producer, through Kings & Queens Filmproduktion which she founded with her husband, Quester, and Seven Elephants production company which she founded in 2018 with German directors David Wnendt and Erik Schmitt and producer Fabian Gasmia. She and Quester are very committed to tell this story.


Throughout the film, Von Heinz continually poses moral questions: when is violence justified or even deemed as necessary? Are we able to recognise the turning point, when peace ends and violence begins? The title of the film ‘and tomorrow the entire world’ is actually a line taken from the official song of Hitler Youth. I shuddered when I learnt of this fact. But I believe that to recall this line, is to not turn our backs to the wrongs of history, but to understand and accept its wrongfulness, in order to make new meaning and relevance for our future. 


This is a film that does not shy away from asking questions that may not have an easy or definitive answer: what does it mean to be a part of a social movement? Does the fight for freedom and democracy justify violence? But it sure as hell gets you thinking long after the credit roll.


Janice Tong is a Sydney cinephile. Other films she has written about recently include The AuditionMalmkrog,Burning GhostLast Year at Marienbad,Wings of Desire,The Mystery of Henri PickWITTGENSTEIN PLAYS CHESS WITH DUCHAMP OR HOW NOT TO DO PHILOSOPHYStroszek and The Art of Wong Kar-wai. Click on the titles to read the reviews.

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