A Jewish-American lawyer returns to his native Germany after 55 years to renew a friendship with an aristocratic nominally Christian German friend that began during the Nazi era. Instead, he encounters a wall of silence. Unfortunately, what could have been a poignant story of faith turns out to be just another holocaust film.
This poignant drama tells how the rise of Adolf Hitler and his National Socialism in the 1930s came between the friendship of two German schoolboys, one a wealthy aristocrat who is nominally Christian, Konradin von Lauenburg, and the other who is nominally Jewish, Hans Strauss. Having fled to America on the eve of the holocaust, Hans returns to his native Germany after 55 years to search for his old friend, but instead encounters a wall of silence.
Jason Robards plays Henry (a.k.a. Hans) Strauss, a Jewish New York lawyer still haunted by memories of National Socialist Germany. Hearing a dog bark in the park, for instance, conjures up the memory of his father confronting a Nazi soldier with his vicious German shepherd.
When Hans receives a letter stating that he must settle his father’s estate, he returns to the country he hates and has expunged from his life. He has refused to speak or read German since his parents sent him to America to escape the Nazis in 1933.
Now, 55 years later, he is back in Stuttgart, beset by memories of Konradin, his school-days’ friend of 1932 whom he searches to find. “I have to take care of this… thing!” he says.
Most of Hans’ flashbacks reveal the wholesome, growing friendship between him and Konradin. Some highlight the incipient horrors of Nazism. In others, Hans prompts Konradin to lose his sexual scruples, saying, “Sexual desire is just an appetite and intercourse is the appetite satisfied.” While in another scene when a neighbor’s house burns down, Hans says, “God let them die,” challenging Konradin to stand up for such a mean God.
REUNION is a touching, bittersweet movie that haunts long after one leaves the theater. As opposed to the traditional story of unrequited love, this is a story of unrequited friendship.
However, it is clear that their youthful friendship prompted Konradin to participate in the famous General’s plot to kill Hitler many years later. Unfortunately, the film trivializes the religious beliefs of these two youths. As the German Christian, Konradin denigrates his pastor and fails to articulate an intelligent response to Hans’ questions, while the faith of Hans’ family is portrayed as merely a cultural artifact.
Hans’ father rejects being a believing member of God’s chosen people. In fact, the movie comes out on the side of atheism which strips the film of all hope and leaves the viewer depressed. What could have been a powerful story of faith turns out to be just another holocaust film.
(L, S, PN, V) 2 obscenities, sexual immorality, partial nudity, and brief violence.