Germany, shortly before the end of the Second World War. Kicked out of her mother-in-law's home after revealing she's having another man's child, Maria leaves bomb-blasted Berlin for a friend's estate in East Prussia. But when the Soviets penetrate into the Reich in January 1945, she and her neighbors must abandon everything and flee from the Red Army. In the last moment, they're able to board the former luxury liner Wilhelm Gustloff, which is to bring them west, where "safety" awaits them. Maria's relieved to be on this huge ship, now overfilled with 6,000 refugees. The boat's big and it should be able to outrun any submarine danger, which, it seems, shouldn't be a problem as the Germans still pretty much control the Baltic. But someone should have told Maria the story of the Lusitania: the Gustloff is soon torpedoed by a Soviet sub and only 900 people are able to be rescued.
The standard mea culpa film, which mushroomed in West Germany in the 50s and 60s, obliquely dealing with the horrors of the Nazi era. It even has its obligatory persecution-of-the-Jews moment like many in this genre, even though it has zero to do with the plot. No one's a Nazi and if you're able to somehow find one, they're always pompous, bloated, self-righteous and hated by everyone. Let's not forget the completely inappropriate Jazz background or the nonsensical soap opera plot meant to make the subject matter more palatable (can you tell I'm not a fan?). The movie's been referred to as the film about the Gustloff tragedy; but outside of a few minutes dedicated to the event at film's end and the repeating of the name "Gustloff" throughout the rest of the movie like some kind of holy mantra, one could argue --- with a large pinch of salt --- that this film has more to do with the evacuation of East Prussia than with the fate of the ship and its passengers. Like Admiral Canaris, it has its tragic moments, which pull effectively at the heart strings; I'm sure it did so even more 15 years after war's end. But the shipshod and smarmy handling of so tragic a subject by the director, scriptwriters and actors will leave anyone honestly interested in the topic sorely disappointed by its (not quick enough) conclusion.
Deutschland, kurz vor Kriegsende. Die Berlinerin Maria flüchtet vor den Bombenangriffen der Alliierten zu einer Freundin nach Ostpreußen. Als die Ostfront zusammenbricht, muss sie panikartig ihre Bleibe verlassen und vor der Roten Armee fliehen. Im letzten Moment kann sie sich auf das Schiff “Wilhelm Gustloff” retten. Maria glaubt sich in Sicherheit, doch das völlig überladene Transportschiff mit 6.000 Flüchtlingen wird von einem sowjetischen U-Boot torpediert und sinkt. Nur etwa 900 Menschen können sich retten.
DVD-R is in German with switchable English subtitles. Approx. 94 mins. See film sample for quality!