Die Kinder der Villa Emma [The Children of Villa Emma] (2016)

Die Kinder der Villa Emma
Director: Nikolaus Leytner
Writer: Agnes Pluch
Cast: Sophie Stockinger, Ludwig Trepte, Nina Proll, Muriel Wimmer, Laurence Rupp, August Zirner, Christian Dolezal, Maximilian Paier, Juri Zanger, Haris Begic, Justus Schlingensiepen, Enzo Gaier, Leon Orlandianyi
Seen on: 20.1.2021

Betty (Sophie Stockinger) lives in Vienna in 1941. As a Jewish girl, that is not the greatest place to be, so her father (Christian Dolezal) makes sure that Betty gets on a train with a group of children led by Helga (Nina Proll) and Georg (August Zirner). They hope to bring the children safely to Palestine. But the way there is dangerous and takes a lot of time.

Die Kinder der Villa Emma tells a good story, but it doesn’t tell it very well, I’m afraid. It doesn’t tell it badly, either, but there was something missing.

The film poster showing a group of children running towards a big mansion as well as several characters from the film.

The story of these children and how they make their way across Europe and beyond is naturally heart-breaking and exciting. The film tries very hard to do that story justice, but it didn’t quite succeed for me, unfortunately. Maybe because it went about everything a little too seriously, maybe because the characters remained rather flat for me – although Betty and in particular Tilla (Muriel Wimmer) had good beginnings of characterization, especially thanks to the strong performances by Stockinger and Wimmer.

I also struggled because the film pits Josko (Ludwig Trepte) and Marko (Laurence Rupp) – the two men most responsible for the children in the end – against each other and I had real trouble telling those two apart. Trepte and Rupp just looked too similar and I caught myself thinking more than once: wait, hang on, which one were you again?

Betty (Sophie Stockinger) leading a little girl in a group of children making their way through a forest.

To add to my distance towards the film’s events was the fact that they are heading to Palestine. Given the political situation today with Israel’s problematic treatment of Palestine (to put it mildly), everytime they mentioned Palestine, it jolted me out of the film because I felt so conflicted about that. Of course, historically it is correct, and given that a lot of countries were unwilling to give refuge to Jews, it is more than understandable that they would want to go all the way there and often actually had no other possibilities for a safe place. But, as I said, knowing what we know today, it is difficult.

It’s not that Die Kinder der Villa Emma is a bad film. It’s just that it isn’t a particularly good film, mostly passing you by as you watch it. And that’s a pity.

Betty (Sophie Stockinger) and Tilla (Muriel Wimmer) talking at night.

Summarizing: couldn’t get excited about it.

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