STANDING ON GUARD

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Flat, The

Release Year:         2011
Studio:         IFC Films
Format:         Colour; DVD; NTSC; Subtitles; Widescreen
Rated:         Not Rated
# of Discs:         1
Running Time:         98 minutes + trailer
DVD Release Date:         October 4, 2011
Creator:         Arnon Goldfinger
Directors:         Arnon Goldfinger
Actors:         Arnon Goldfinger
DVD Features:         Trailers
E:Top Picks Rating:          8/10

IFC Films Write-up:  
In the gripping documentary THE FLAT, filmmaker Arnon Goldfinger travels to Tel Aviv to clean out the apartment of his recently deceased German-born Jewish grandmother. While going through her belongings, Goldfinger finds evidence suggesting that she and her husband were good friends with Leopold von Mildenstein, a leading official in the Nazi propaganda ministry–and remained friends with him following World War II. Disturbed that his grandparents could have continued a close relationship with an influential Nazi after the Holocaust, Goldfinger begins an unsettling journey into his family’s history, visiting a peaceful town in Germany to interview von Mildenstein’s elderly daughter about what really went on with their ancestors 75 years earlier–and discovers that knowing the truth can be a terrible burden. Both arresting and heartbreaking, The FLAT is a real-life suspense story about how the past can return to haunt the present.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:    
Even today, new stories about the Holocaust rise up out of the ashes and demand to be told. Each voice is worthy, every story worth telling. And some are more interesting than others.

THE FLAT is certainly interesting, even important. But it falls short of being the compelling experience the filmmaker hoped it to be. The reason for this, in this reviewer’s opinion, is that there is no pay off. Granted, this is a documentary, where there are no guarantees as to the outcome of the story. One simply jumps in and hopes for the best. Arnon Goldfinger must’ve made a hasty decision to pursue his grandparents relationship with a high ranking Nazi and his wife when he discovered evidence of their friendship while going through his recently deceased grandmother’s belongings in her flat. (If it wasn’t a hasty decision, then that would mean the footage of his family going through his grandmother’s belongings was staged).

It is difficult to understand the myriad of emotions he and his family must have felt at this revelation, but clearly, at least for Goldfinger, the stakes are high, even if his family members’ reactions to various memorabilia are, for the most part, subdued.

One can’t help suspect that as events unfold the filmmaker was hoping for some catharsis to take place: either his mother breaking down and screaming “how could they?” or the daughter of the grandparents’ Nazi friend shrieking “it can’t be true!” This is a reasonable hope, for therein lies the stuff of good drama.

Sadly, for the sake of the documentary, this does not occur. Goldfinger voices his disappointment with his mother’s guarded reaction (she knew nothing about this relationship), but the rest of the time he looks dazed, as if he cannot believe no one is expressing outrage.

Perhaps a more objective perspective on the part of the filmmaker might’ve served the story better; something the best documentaries seem to have in common.

THE FLAT is, to be frank, a little flat, dramatically. It still deserves to be seen, however, as yet another valid documentation of an unusual offshoot of the Holocaust.

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