Facts and Figures
Run time: 136 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 18th September 2003
Box Office USA: $0.3M
Distributed by: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Production compaines: Studio Hamburg Letterbox Filmproduktion, Tele München Fernseh Produktionsgesellschaft (TMG)
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Fresh: 34 Rotten: 27
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Ruth's daughter Hannah (Maria Schrader) knows that her mother was in Berlin during World War II but she wants to know more. So, pursuing a tip from her Aunt, she travels to Berlin to track down an elderly woman named Lena (Doris Schade) who took Ruth (Svea Lohde) in when her mother was one of the thousands of Jews interned during the war.
The film, directed by German director Margarethe von Trotta, goes back and forth in time between present and World War II Berlin. It mixes two personal stories that deal specifically with the larger struggles at Rosenstrasse. The personal stories are about Lena (played by Katja Riemann as a young woman), a German woman concert pianist married to Fabien (Martin Feifel), a violinist of Jewish heritage who was interned during World War II, and Ruth, who Lena took care of while awaiting the release of her husband.
The film is based on real events that took place in Berlin in the winter of 1943 when the Nazis turned a factory on Rosenstrasse (a street in Berlin) into one of the many internment centers for intermarried and "mixed-percentage" Jews before they deported them to places such as Auschwitz.
What made the actions on Rosenstrasse especially significant was that the German wives of the Jewish men gathered on the street in front of the factory to demand - via peaceful protest - the release of their husbands. By doing so they showed courage by staring down machine guns, sacrificing their lives and their reputations.
The film unfolds in the flashback scenes with the understated urgency of a Masterpiece Theatre episode, and even though it feels a bit too stagey, the direction is tight and the acting is very good.
The strength of Rosenstrasse lies mostly in Hannah's search for the truth about her mother. The bond between mother and daughter becomes strengthened by the newfound knowledge regarding the heroic act of the German wives from the past. What's more, Lena - a German woman - saves the life of Ruth - a Jewish girl - and in turn she helps enrich the life of Ruth's daughter Hannah. Overall, the past and the present come together effectively.