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Film / Sterne

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Boy Meets Girl - after a fashion

English title, Stars. This 1959 East German film set in a small Bulgarian village during World War II concerns the tentative and doomed relationship between "Walter", a conscience-stricken German corporal, and Ruth, a Greek Jew imprisoned in the nearby concentration camp.

It doesn't end well.

This film contains examples of:

  • All Jews Are Ashkenazi: A rare aversion. The Jews showed are Sephardic, from Greece.
  • Almost Kiss: Twice. First time they both break it off, and the second time, their lips touch, but Ruth quickly pulls away, saying "It can not be."
  • Death of a Child: Ruth's pupils will be deported with her at the beginning. And the child delivered in the camp is stated to be dead hours after his birth.
  • Despair Speech: Walter believes (not unreasonably) that with this war millions of years of evolution are being thrown away, and the man is no better than a chimpanzee.
  • Downer Beginning: The beginning makes clear that all the people in the camp are not going to be saved.
  • Downer Ending: All the Jews in the camp are will be deported to Poland.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Ruth knows that Auschwitz is no farm, as they are told, but is resigned to her fate because she doesn't want to leave her people behind.
  • False Reassurance: The Jews are told that in Poland they will work in vegetable farm, but very few of them are buying it.
  • Faux Affably Evil: We first see Kurt coming to the aid of a tired Jewish woman - by gently lifting her child onto a cattle car for her. Too bad that they are boarding a train for Auschwitz.
  • Freudian Slip: Kurt, who has been in Auschwitz, drunkenly says that it's "a mill for human flesh", unwittingly acknowledging that Jews are in fact people.
  • Grey Rain of Depression: The beginning starts with an ugly rain, while the Jews are being deported.
  • Handicapped Badass: Walter is limping, probably from a war injury.
  • How We Got Here: The narration starts as we see Ruth being deported and Walter missing her train.
  • I Choose to Stay: Ruth refuses to flee with Walter, because she doesn't want to leave her father and her pupils behind.
  • I Lied: Kurt lies about the deportation schedule. He tells Walter by writing this on the latter's portrait of Ruth.
  • Kick the Dog: Kurt's writes he's lied about Ruth's deportation on Walter's portrait of Ruth.
  • La Résistance: The Bulgarian partisans show up. Walter begins to collaborate with them after the events of the film.
  • Love Across Battlelines: Walter is a German officer who falls for a Jewish woman, and tries badly to avoid her deportation.
  • Meaningful Echo: When the protagonists are talking about stars and men Ruth says "Every human being has got a protective star in the sky, but once you rip it off from its place, Man can do nothing but perish". And simbolically, when Walter finds at the station her ripped off yellow star it can't be more obvious.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Walter shows up at the station too late, he can't even see Ruth boarding the train.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Walter wants to help the Jews by smuggling medicines in the camp. The plan is foiled and the Jews are punished with two days of starvation.
  • Not a Date: Walter and Ruth spend a night talking about life, death, war and he walks her back in the camp. He jokes that it almost looks like a date. Ruth snarks that they even have their own kind of Cupid, pointing at the soldier who has been following them the whole time on Kurt's instructions and is know taking a piss against a wall.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The partisans never learn "Walter"'s real name, and so refer to him by an apparently randomly chosen pseudonym, or as "the Corporal". His fellow Germans call him Rembrandt for his interest in painting.
  • Rage Within the Machine: Walter is since the beginning disillusioned with the war and Germany from his experiences in Leningrad. That is even before learning what Auschwitz is.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: At their first meeting, Ruth asks Walter to bring a doctor for a woman in travail, but Walter declines, not wanting to be involved with these people. Ruth tells him he's not a human being, and the Germans are all the same. Walter feels profound shame, since he's been musing for days about how humanity has sunk into depravity, and resolves to get a doctor.
  • Rewatch Bonus: In the beginning there's Ruth looking around as if she's looking for someone. It's clear that she was longing to say goodbye to Walter but Kurt tricked him into not showing up.
  • Separated by the Wall: By the wire fence of the camp, in several shots.
  • Schoolmarm: Ruth is a school teacher, and keeps teaching the children in the camp to keep them busy.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Walter, who was partecipated at the Siege of Leningrad (by today estimated to be one of the worst sieges in history, mind you) shows signs of this. His Despair Speech about human kind is probably generated by the horrors he witnessed.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Walter arranges for Ruth to be smuggled in time before she gets on the train for Auschwitz, but Kurt foils his plan lying about the train's scheduled departure. However, Ruth didn't even want to be saved, since she consciously chose to follow her people until the very end.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Walter is disillusioned with mankind, and is dwelling in his cynicism. Ruth is on the idealistic side, believing that life is always a better option that death, and that while evil exist, it will eventually pass and life will go on.
  • Stealth Insult: When Kurt announce the Jews they are going to starve for two days as a punishment, Walter comments that he sounded very German. Kurt doesn't spot the insult.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: Particularly gutting example. In the opening scene, Walter hopelessly chases after the train carrying Ruth to her death until it disappears into a tunnel.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Averted. The Jews are Sephardic and speak a dialect of Judeo-Spanish or Ladino, the Mediterranean equivalent of Yiddish. note 
  • You Are Better Than You Think: Walter wants to save Ruth, at least because he wants to prove to himself that he's not a "swine". Ruth tells him that he already proved it by bringing the medicines to the camp.
  • Wham Line: "There's no one left in the camp, Corporal." Kurt lied about the departure time and it's too late to save Ruth.