Anita B.

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Anita B.

Anita B.

original title:

ANITA B.

directed by:

screenplay:

Roberto Faenza, Nelo Risi, Edith Bruck from her novel "Quanta stella c'è nel cielo"

cinematography:

set design:

costume design:

producer:

country:

Italy

year:

2013

film run:

88'

format:

colour

release date:

16/01/2014

festivals & awards:

Anita, a Jewish girl of Hungarian origin who has emerged alive from Auschwitz, is taken in after the war by her one surviving relative: her aunt, Monika, the thirty year old sister of Anita’s father. Monika, however, does not liked to be called ‘Aunt,’ and receives her niece with something less than enthusiasm.
She lives, Monika, with her husband Aron and baby son Roby, in Zvikovez, a small town in the mountains of Czechoslovakia, not far from Prague. Also in the household is the good-looking young Eli, Aron’s brother, whose philosophy of life can be summed up as follows: “men want to unbutton their pants, women think about love”.
In the town, situated in the Sudetenland, that before the war had a large German population, the former inhabitants have been forcibly ejected, their homes taken over by returning prisoners and refugees. There is an air of increasing tension in the place, as the communists prepare to seize power.
To begin with after her arrival, Anita finds herself a virtual prisoner once more; this time because of a lack of any papers. She cannot leave the house, and scarcely meets anyone outside the immediate family. Those people she does come in to contact with, however, all seem intent on forgetting the recent horrors; they want to go out and dance, enjoy themselves, and listen to popular songs broadcast across the Iron Curtain by the Voice of America. Anita too has her dreams, but unlike the others is determined not to turn her back on the past.
She’s a spirited girl, full of hope for the future; finding her strength in the memory of her parents, themselves both killed in the camps. She is disconcerted by that refusal to remember on the part of all those around her. No-one – not even Eli, with whom she soon embarks on a passionate affair – seems even to want to think about what has happened, let alone talk about it. It’s as if everyone feels ashamed of having survived.
The denial of pain blocks the path to the truth. Anita instinctively knows this, but when she tries to breach that collective wall of silence that surrounds her, she finds herself being pushed back. So, if she wants to talk to anyone about her beloved and lost parents, she has to do so with little Roby, who listens to her happily but doesn’t understand.
In that melting pot of languages and nationalities that is the Central Europe of those days, once Anita is able to get out of the house she meets a whole range of unforgettable characters: among them the larger-than-life Uncle Jacob, a musician who seems to be the conscience of the community; Sarah, the dynamic ‘ferrywoman’ who organizes the refugees’ clandestine passage to Palestine; and young David, who like Anita is an orphan – if he has lost his parents in quite different if no less tragic circumstances – and with whom Anita becomes very friendly – until one day he suddenly vanishes, in pursuit of his own dream.
All at once, Anita has to face a new challenge; young though she is, and just on the brink of womanhood, she finds herself pregnant with Eli’s baby.
With an unexpected twist to the story, Anita finally will take a decision which requires a lot of courage.

DIRECTOR'S NOTES
How many films have been made about the Shoah? A great many. Some would say too many. I have made one myself. But very few have been made about the aftermath; on, as it were, the life after death.
This is precisely the period that Anita B. covers; filling a gap that is due to various causes. Amongst these, and primarily, is the desire on the behalf of all concerned to forget. When a trauma is too great, the psyche tries to deal with it by removing it.
Anita is a gentle and impressionable girl; in her early teens when she emerges, still just alive, from Auschwitz. Yet, despite her youth and fragility, and her experiences in the camp, she has kept her strength and courage. She goes forward into the new world that awaits her full of energy and determination, but also with a certain ingenuity.
In those immediate post-war years, everyone seeks to live life to the full. But for many, this means trying simply to wipe out the past; without stopping to realize that that in turn means, in essence, to wipe out themselves. So it is that the only person with whom Anita feels able to talk about what she has gone through is a one year old child. Little Roby listens happily to her stories, but of course he cannot understand them. Everyone else encourages Anita ‘to change the subject’. Or tells her, ‘What’s done is done; forget it.’
But Anita does not want to forget. She wants to move forward with her eyes and mind wide open; not to be a mere survivor. And perhaps what most she wants to do, in order to re-establish her identity, is find love; even at the cost of giving herself further pain.
The passionate affair on which she embarks seems likely to end in tears, or worse; but miraculously her leap in the dark becomes the start of a journey towards the light, and the occasion of her rebirth.
I believe that Anita B. is my most ‘non-comformist’ film; even more so than the much-censored “Forza Italia!” In an age when the cinema seems increasingly to be devoted to the representation of unreal worlds inhabited by robots, all shot with a plethora of ever more sophisticated and mind-numbing special effects, this is a story about real people whose lives are examined with discretion, respect; as if being approached on tip-toe.
Edith Bruck’s novel, on which this film is loosely based, tells how Anita finds herself constantly having to face a hostile world, as if it were a crime to have been a deportee – and to have returned. I have never asked Edith precisely how autobiographical her story is, but I added a ‘B.’ to the title in homage to the author. When I finished reading the book, on a flight to Japan where I was about to present another of my films, I found myself crying uncontrollably and had to seek refuge in the airplane’s toilet. I often wonder how we dare complain about our trivial day-to-day concerns, when there are people who have truly lived through hell.
Another great writer and survivor of the camps, the Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, whom I have had the great good fortune to meet, says that from the moment you start dealing with the Holocaust, you become a witness in the court of history.
Ours is a great responsibility, even if we are just spectators. But it is a fine responsibility; because if our testimony is truthful, it becomes like a candle that, being lit, can never thereafter be snuffed out.
I tried to shoot the story of Anita with ‘an open heart’; to be infused by the spirit of her enthusiasm, her honesty, and also her subjectivity. Somewhat as I did with “Jonah Who Lived in the Whale”, I kept the camera at the eye-level of my protagonist, so that what is seen does not claim to be objective.
As I was working in the mountains of Northern Italy and Prague, I reflected that this latest film – that took me two years to find the finance for, and another year to complete – was in a sense the sequel to my earlier film, “The Soul Keeper”, and that with luck, Sabina Spielrein would have loved it. For which reason I finished with a scene that stands as a tribute to two brave and indomitable women: “a journey to the past with only one piece of baggage: the future”.