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Kriegerin (Combat Girls) – Review

Kriegerin is a forcible directorial debut from Berlin-born film graduate David Wnendt. The theme is uncomfortable – the subculture of East-German neo-Nazism, focusing on two female protagonists. Kriegerin is set in a provincial East-German town, where right-wing radicalism and testosterone-fuelled violence is the norm.
The film starts with a bullish, pugnacious scene on a train – a gang of skinheads terrorize all on board – throwing a conductor off, bloodily beating up various passengers and performing the Heil Hitler salute. This cuts to a sex scene between one of the protagonists and her boyfriend – even there, there’s little tenderness.
Marisa (the formidable Alina Levshin) is twenty years old and works in the local supermarket. She has a tattoo on her shoulder that reads “Aryan Skin Girl”. When two Afghani immigrants bring their goods to the till, Marisa refuses to serve them, with a cruel, contumacious “I’m not serving something like that”. Yet over time, her enmity towards foreigners begins to dissipate. For the others, arrant racism remains an integral part of their daily lives. Destruction defines them.
The second protagonist is fifteen-year-old Svenja (Jella Haase). Her stepfather is despotic and overbearing, and when he discovers cigarette butts in her pockets, Svenja is forced to smoke an entire packet of cigarettes in succession. As a primary act of rebellion, Svenja slowly begins to slide deeper and deeper into the world of the neo-Nazis. It’s a forbidden sphere, a world of violence, of drugs and chain-smoking.
Throughout the film, we learn of the (rather too simple) origins of Marisa’s attitudes. When she announces to her mother that she is planning on having a baby with her skinhead boyfriend, she asks her mother if she thinks she’d be a good parent. Her mother replies: “there’s not a lot that you can do well”. We see her grandfather’s hatred of Jews, and how such hatred is inflicted onto Marisa as an ingenuous ten-year-old. It’s a lamentably obvious attempt from Wnendt to exemplify the impressionability of a child.
There’s a New German Film feel about the movie – decidedly provocative, melodramatic, an exegesis of the neo-Nazi culture. Wnendt spent many years researching the film – meeting with right-wing women and various members of Germany’s neo-Nazi party, the NPD.
It’s an uncomfortable film to sit through. It’s almost brilliant, yet there are too many clichés towards the end. It’s undoubtedly superbly researched which shows with a semi-documentary feel, yet the violent and positively stupid skinhead boyfriend, Marisa’s sudden change in racial attitudes and the overly naïve Svenja detract from the movie somewhat. These elements are too superficial.
Despite the clichés, it’s eye-opening. For those of us only mildly political, who read the newspapers, vote in the big elections and claim to be socialists, it’s a shocking glimpse at the fervor of radicalism. Their political views define their relationships, their leisure activities, and their taste in music. It’s a timely piece – there are currently 25,000 right-wing extremists in Germany, according to Spiegel Online and last year’s revelations that the German security authorities had failed to properly investigate a series of right-wing murders have shocked the government into creating a database to fight neo-Nazis. In some parts of Germany, neo-Nazism is a very real threat. Kriegerin provides us with a glimpse into the life of some of the gangs in Eastern Germany, yet the characters require a fuller, rounder background for it to have the impact it aims to achieve.

Categories Reviews


I'm Rachel, the author behind Arts in Munich. I moved to Munich in the summer of 2008, and work as an editor in the city. I also do freelance work for the BBC, MONOCLE, Singapore Airlines and Kaltblut, among others, and previously wrote for the Huffington Post and Electronic Beats.

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