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Culture

A Fatal Affair

Joseph Vilsmeier's new film "Leo and Claire" captures a tragic love affair in Nazi Germany. The film is on show in German cinemas as from Friday.

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Irene Scheffler (Franziska Petri) under interrogation in the film "Leo and Claire"

Germany, 1933. Leo Katzenberger is a wealthy, and prominent businessman. At heart a German patriot, born in Nuremberg where he gew up, he is also a Jew.

Leo’s world shatters when he has a love affair with Irene, a young, attractive photographer and a non-Jew.

Leo’s neighbours, full of disgust at Leo and Irene’s relationship, denounce them. The two meet again in court.

Josef Vilsmeier’s new film "Leo and Claire" is the remake of a true story, following a book on by German writer Christiana Kohl.

Set in Nuremberg during World War II, the film captures the tragic outcome of a love affair in Nazi Germany.

Filmdirector Josef Vilsmeier ("Comedian Harmonists") is a renown movie producer both in Germany and abroad.

A large number of his films are about, or take part in World War II ("Stalingrad").

According to Vilsmeier, there is an element of personal history which is reflected in his work: As a young child, Vilsmeier shared a house with three Jewish families. He grew up with their children as if they were his own brothers and sisters.

"Maybe I always had it in my subconscious that everything I know from this time has to be said one day, all the things that have not been said anywhere else".

Originality

All Vilsmeier’s films have a distinctly clear message.

His new film is more than just the projection of Christiana Kohl's book on filmreel. In order to make the movie as original as possible, Vilsmeier tracked down Katzenberger’s grandson, and visited him in Jerusalem.

"For me there was a lot that was not in Kohl’s book, such as documents", he told Deutsche Welle. "I wanted to formulate my own ideas".

Ideas which have attracted widespread attention. Vilsmeier’s "Comedian Harmonists" attracted 2,8 million viewers, "Schlafes Bruder" ("Brother of Sleep") was nominated for an Oscar.

And Vilsmeier’s films have seen success abroad. According to Vilsmeier, "German war films do very well abroad, as do films that deal with the German past".

According to the 50-year-old, this is because the world still watches Germany very carefully.

The world can now watch "Leo and Claire", Vilsmeier’s new film, which premiered on Thursday.