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When Felice (Maria Schrader) sees Lily (Juliane Kohler) at a 1943 Berlin concert in Nazi Germany, she is bewitched. But their worlds are very different: Lily, from a solid German family with not much sympathy for Jews, is married with four children. Felice is a Resistance fighter and liberal in every way, intelligent, passionate - and attracted to women, a secret she shares only with fellow lesbians of the time. Lily is happy to flirt with admirers while her husband is fighting on the Eastern Front, but finds Felice especially fascinating, despite the disapproval of her friend Ilse (Johanna Wokalek). Their relationship begins to catch fire and Felice nicknames herself Jaguar, while Lilly is Aimée, in a romantic re-christening. But Felice hides another secret - she is Jewish, and this alone could destroy her as well as endanger Lily, if indeed Lily accepts the startling revelation at all.

Review by Louise Keller:
If ever there was a forbidden love, it was that of Aimée and Jaguar. Captive in a whirlwind of romance, danger and desire, we are transported to a rich, complex world filled with drama, eroticism and yearning. 'Flirting is always serious,' we are told, and here we flirt with life, death, love and betrayal. Effectively structured in flashbacks, the two central characters are like yin and yan - opposites who make the other complete. Life and death lie in the balance - life is for living now because the only thing that tomorrow promises is uncertainty.

Love's poetry is reflected in the film's exotic title, conjuring up magical images. Max Farberbock's passionate debut film is a remarkable achievement, and one that will linger long after the credits have rolled. The muted colours of the production design are exquisite, the music evocative, haunting. This is a love story that is as seductive in its own way as Casablanca.

Performances are superb - Lily (Juliane Kohler has Mia Farrow-like vulnerability) is the butterfly, preening, flitting until she discovers her soul mate. Felice (Maria Schrader displays a disarming vulnerability beneath her glossy exterior) is the predator; gutsy, confident, full of initiative, yet she harbours the Achilles heel that is her heart. She is breathtakingly compulsive, seemingly fickle, but deeply loyal and true. Rebellion meets bourgeois in this moving tale of love, where the obstacles are religion, sex and war.

The love scene between Lily and Felice is one of the most sensitive and erotic of recent times, when we discover the hunger and fulfillment of a love for the first time. Tony Imi's sensitive cinematography captures the beauty throughout - leaving an air of melancholy, the spirit and joyous love. Startlingly poignant, Aimée and Jaguar is a story about dreams. If you have ever dreamed, don't miss it.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Aimée and Jaguar is 'amour at the jugular' - a true story of two people who go through hell to find their amorous heaven only to end up in earthly hell when war smashes their lives. It's a breathtakingly beautiful film, never mawkish, never less than vibrantly real and never more affecting than when it explores the nature of a love that 'dare not speak its name' - not in Nazi Germany. Yet it would be misleading to think of this as a gay film, or indeed a film 'about lesbians'. It transcends those labels by its humanity and because it captures the idiosyncrasies of a true story, which is at once confoundingly complex and painfully heartfelt.

The setting - mid-40s Berlin - is more than geographical: it's a social, cultural, as well as political ambiance, superbly conveyed in the film's cinematography and production design. But it is the excellence of the script and the performances that stand out, carrying the emotions and realising the passionate but also intellectually stimulating characters. It isn't flawless, some scenes are too long and the material is sometimes overworked, but the film's lasting visceral impact comes from the effective portrayal of a combination of love gained and love lost, in circumstances beyond the control of the players. If you really love cinema, you will not want to miss this film.

Published April 15, 2010

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(Germany, 1999)

Aimée & Jaguar

CAST: Juliane Kohler, Maria Schrader, Johanna Wokalek, Heike Matatsch, Elisabeth Degen, Detlev Buck

PRODUCER: Mathias Schwerbrock

DIRECTOR: Max Farberbock

SCRIPT: Max Farberbock, Rona Munro (based on the novel by Erica Fischer)


EDITOR: Barbara Hennings

MUSIC: Jan A.P. Kaczmarek

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Uli Hanisch., Albrecht Konrad

RUNNING TIME: 145 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: (not released theatrically in Australia)

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Festival of German Films, April - May, 2010



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