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Rama Dama, 1990
Rama Dama

Rama Dama is Joseph Vilsmaier's second film starring Werner Stocker and Dana Vávrová, and like Herbstmilch, it is set in Bavaria. The opening scenes take place in Munich at the end of the Second World War, when the city was heavily bombed by the Allies. (Dana Vávrová's hometown of Prague, Czechoslovakia was used as a shooting location). But most of the story takes place during the period of rebuilding immediately after the war, known as "Rama Dama".

Vávrová plays Kati Zeiler, a young mother whose husband Felix has been ordered to the Eastern Front. Shortly after Felix's departure their apartment building is bombed, and the pregnant Kati and her young daughter Marie live as best they can among the ruins. Hearing that the Allies are on their way to Munich, Kati flees to relatives in the Bavarian countryside, where she gives birth to another daughter as the American troops roll into the village. (Some of the birthing footage used was actually filmed during the delivery of Vávrová's and Vilsmaier's own daughter. The baby Theresa and her sister Janina play Kati's children in the film.)

Once the war is over, Kati anxiously meets the arriving trains every day with a photo of Felix her hand, but she is always disappointed. One day, as she exits the station in tears, she accidentally collides with a handsome soldier, Hans Stadtler (Werner Stocker). Hans is immediately attracted to her, and pretends to have known Felix in the Army, but Kati rebuffs him and hurries away. They soon meet again when Hans wanders by Kati's building and sees her doing laundry outside in the rubble with her friend Leni. Hans is now without a home himself, and like the stray dog that has attached itself to him, he is looking for companionship. He takes up residence in the ruins nearby and tries to ingratiate himself with Kati by making repairs and scavenging for things they can use. Kati is not ungrateful for the help, but she is determined to be faithful to Felix.

As time passes, however, Kati begins to lose hope that Felix will ever return. She and Hans spend much of their free time together, or on double-dates with Leni and her American GI boyfriend. When Hans defends her from the advances of an American soldier, Kati realizes that she has fallen in love with him. But Vilsmaier, who co-wrote the script as well as directing, does not allow Kati and Hans the luxury of a happy Hollywood ending. In the midst of a tender, domestic scene, an unexpected visitor arrives to turn their world upside down.

As with Herbstmilch, I saw this film in the original German because no English-subtitled versions are currently available, and the language barrier no doubt prevented me from enjoying all its subtleties. But thanks to the excellence of the acting and directing, I was able to follow the story and enjoy the film. Dana Vávrová illuminates the film with her sensitive portrayal of Kati, and Werner Stocker's strong performance complements hers perfectly. His Hans appears at first a bit pushy and opportunistic, but we soon see that he is more than a randy soldier on the make. He has an infectious sense of humor, and in time she learns that he is a passionate, thoughtful, and loving man. The supporting cast is excellent, especially Ivana Chýlková as Kati's irrepressible girlfriend Leni. I hope that one day Joseph Vilsmaier's early films will eventually be released on DVD with English subtitles for linguistically-challenged fans of Werner Stocker (like me).

This review is Copyright ©2003 by tirnanog and may not be reproduced without permission.

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(This page last updated 05/15/2003)

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