THE NASTY GIRL
Starring: Lena Stolze, Hans-Reinhard
Muller, Monika Baumgartner,
Elisabeth Bertram, & Michael
Runtime: 92 minutes (in German, with
Director: Michael Verhoeven
Producer: Michael Senftlebn
Writer: Michael Verhoeven
Address Comments To:
Having won a trip to Paris with her first essay, Sonja is already the toast of her small Bavarian town. However, when she puts pen to paper for this second essay that she hopes will "show how the church kept its integrity during the Reich and resisted the Nazis," she is mystified by the reactions of the townspeople she tries to interview. It seems they're not the resistance fighters she expected to find.
What Sonja does find is the gentry amassed against her. Librarians block her research, and the limit of confidentiality on documents is suspiciously extended from thirty years to fifty. A good Catholic with no political axe to grind, Sonja is sure she can get help from the church when the local politicians refuse to talk with her.
All doors, however, close to her inquiry, and the essay deadline comes and goes. Sonja marries and bears children. Growing restless, she attempts to work her never-submitted essay into a book. Ignoring threats to herself and her family, Sonja returns to probing the lives of the townspeople, while trying to gain access to the town archives. Her phone, though, jangles with anonymous insults of "Jewish whore!" and neo-National Socialist louts toss bombs into her bedroom.
THE NASTY GIRL is about accountability and responsibility. It wants to clear the past -- in this case, Germany's past. With its dark humor, this comedy highlights the absurd: a young girl with best wishes for her town becomes "das schreckliche Madchen" -- a nasty girl. People overreact. They are full of fear and don't want anyone digging up the past. As the film says, "You have to know where you came from to know where you're going."
The acting is uniformly excellent, and a light, satiric tone pervades these daffy small-town characters. One is tempted to muse: how can such pleasant, comical figures harbor such horrible secrets?
Director Verhoeven could have made a straightforward documentary on the subject. The real-life crusader was Anja Rosmus, who lived in Passau, the place where Hitler had lived and Eichmann had married. Instead, he dresses up fact as fable. Passau becomes Pfilzing, and Anja Rosmus is now Sonja Rosenberger.
Of more concern, the church is again depicted as stereotypically corrupt. Nuns give out high test-score marks to those children whose parents donate large sums to the school. A bit of superstitious idolatry occurs when some of the characters pray to a "tree of mercy." Another man folds a bill in such a way as to produce an obscene picture, while a sense of sexual repression is created among a classroom of boys, who run to the window to catch a glimpse of a woman's cleavage.