MoviesMixed (Divisive)

Where Hands Touch – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

Community Rating: 61.97% (5) | How This Number is Tabulated

Sadly, neither the Black experience during WWII Germany nor the odd love affair between a Nazi soldier and Black German girl flourish.


Director(s)Amma Asante
Screenplay ByAmma Asante
Date Released9/14/2018
Genre(s)Romance, Drama, War
The HookA (Minimal) Depiction of the Black Experience as a Black German Person During WWII.
Noted Cast
LeynaAmandla Stenberg
LutzGeorge MacKay
MarthaAbbie Cornish

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Summary

Leyna, a half Black and half German girl, is well aware she is an outsider. Yet, despite the treatment by her school pupils, the military, and even strangers, she loved her homeland. However, as the holocaust kicks into gear she finds herself worrying about her safety. Especially since a young man named Lutz, who at first seems to just lust for Leyna but eventually fell for her, adds to her dangers. For part of her allowed existence was being sterilized. However, her mother (who I wanna say is named) Martha got fake papers for her daughter so that the procedure would never have to be done. As for where her dad is? Gone, for he fought for the French during World War I.

But, despite knowing the rules she is breaking, and the dangers she’d face, Leyna continues to see Lutz, the son of a Nazi officer. She even sees him despite him being very pro fighting for Germany, which essentially means keeping Hitler in power. For she is a fool in love. Leading to the question: Will their love survive or end up getting one, if not both, killed? Especially considering it isn’t just his dad against their union, but an entire nation.

Highlights

The Black German Experience

Leyna seeing Nazi flags as she walks onto the street.

Taking note of the short June, which explored the Asian American experience during Jim Crow, what it was like to be Black in Nazi Germany is another experience known about but not heavily depicted. It’s one of those things which surely has a slew of literature in existence, maybe documentaries, but not a film. No dramatization to make the details more easily consumable yet still informative. Which is sort of the benefit of this movie.

Mind you, this film doesn’t necessarily deserve a pedestal for it doesn’t handle the subject matter in such a way like Asante’s past work, Belle. However, it does give a taste which is quite enticing. Particularly thanks to Stenberg’s performance which captures that all too familiar feeling of wanting to love the country, which is all you have known, yet feeling constantly rejected by it. It’s people reject your existence and ostracize you. The laws offer you no real protection to enforce and your government? They are unsure what to do beyond making sure you don’t procreate. An experience which Stenberg may not get to portray to the point of you thinking she needs an award, but she gets the point across.

A Complicated Loyalty

A German officer burning Leyna's sterilization papers.

Delving a bit further, it is very weird to listen and watch Lutz and Leyna love Germany despite the culture which has become German. Leyna loves her country, wants it to defend itself and win the war, but seemingly doesn’t take into account it winning the war means things being worse for her. Nor does she take into account her boyfriend, who wants to fight for Germany, wears a similar uniform as the men who kill discriminately and publicly. Such as when they shot a Jewish man in his genitals, after making him strip in the middle of the street, before shooting him in the head.

It makes the idea of absolute love and loyalty seem strange. Thus presenting a story which, as an American, you can again easily connect to our history. The desire to not see the civilization and culture you have known collapse, yet many aspects of said culture you finding hard to defend. Yet, with knowing it often is all or nothing, you find yourself picking all in hopes that, when the fight is over, during that time of feeling like one nation, the sins of the past maybe medicated so all can move forward in unity.

On The Fence

A Romance Amongst The Chaos

Leyna and Lutz right before their lips touch.

Stenberg has that kind of charm where, if you pair her with anyone who is at least decent, you’d think they are cute together. As is seen in this film. However, it is such a mountain to get over when it comes to Lutz essentially being a Nazi who may not agree with the killing of Jews, and people on general principle, yet that is what he is fighting for. He may say it is for pride and country, but his country is committing genocide and so him fighting for it is co-signing what they are doing and would continue to do if they won.

Making it very difficult to just let yourself enjoy this mixed race girl and German boy do their Romeo & Juliet act. For while their parents don’t want them together, one side is just a worried German mother and the other is a Nazi father who’d rather kill his son than let him touch, never mind lay, with a negro. It’s just something a bit too hard to get over.

Overall: Mixed (Divisive) | Purchase A Ticket On Fandango | Available on Amazon

The issue with Where Hands Touch is its inability to go into any subject matter as far as you may desire. It doesn’t give you the full experience of being a Black German person during World War II. The film doesn’t dive too deep into how complicated it would be to really have an interracial relationship back then. Nor do you feel the full weight of being a citizen of a country which despises the fact it can’t wipe you out with a snap. It relies heavily on you being able to connect the story presented to stories you know to bolster what it gives you.

Hence the mixed label. It does feel like the tone of the movie is made lighter to accommodate the romance and create a hopeful tone. Which feels almost like it is discrediting the fear of many a Black German person back then and their experiences. Making things worse is that you know there aren’t going to be more films presenting this perspective so this being it is kind of disheartening.

But, while it doesn’t hit a home run, Asante’s script and Stenberg’s acting give you just enough to where you may still feel cheated, but it may push you to follow up on your own.

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Check Out Other Movies.


The Black German Experience - 85%
A Complicated Loyalty - 84%
A Romance Amongst The Chaos - 70%

80%

It does feel like the tone of the movie is made lighter to accommodate the romance and create a hopeful tone. Which feels almost like it is discrediting the fear of many a Black German person back then and their experiences. Making things worse is that you know there aren’t going to be more films presenting this perspective so this being it is kind of disheartening. But, while it doesn’t hit a home run, Asante’s script and Stenberg’s acting give you just enough to where you may still feel cheated, but it may push you to follow up on your own.

What Would Your Rating Be?

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Negative  (40%) Mixed  (0%) Positive  (60%)

Amari Allah

I started Wherever I Look back in 2011 and have aimed to be that friend who loves watching various forms of media and talking about it. So, from bias, strong opinions, and a perspective you may not have thought about, you'll find that in our reviews.

2 Comments

  1. Personally I really enjoyed this film. I recognise that it’s not to everyone’s taste and the opinions people have against the film are valid however I disagree with them. I do not think it romanticises being a Nazi. I think it portrays a very real scenario in which a Nazi boy is confused about wanting to fight for his county and yet is against what his country is doing. It shows a black woman standing up for herself and struggling to accept that she is in a world that refuses to let her fit in. It shows a scared mother who is trying to do right by her children and chilling scenes such as Gunther’s death which really hit home to me as a viewer. Although many others disagree with Leyna and Lutz having negative opinions towards Jews I believe this represents just how potent propaganda against Jews was that even a black woman who has been abused and mistreated by the Nazis will still believe that they are wrong. Although I do think the movie could have shown just how hard it was as a black woman in Nazi Germany I think it did an alright job at this and I felt scared for all the characters all the way through. I wish it had delved deeper into certain aspects of Nazi Germany such as sterilisation or the Jews however I think it aimed to touch on most bases rather than go to deep into any one. Definitely a film I will rewatch with tears in my eyes.

  2. It was one strange film to watch from my perspective, being an Australian and having no negro experience except what I saw when staying in the US for a several months on a few trips in the early 1990’s . The treatment by the Nazis was hard to except as a normal state of affairs at that time in history. The treatment of the Negro’s by white America at that time was not so palatable either but I don’t think the US started sterilising them on mass but they were segregated. There are a lot of questions in my mind about the film which I haven’t been able to find an answer to as yet eg: why was the white woman shot when found to have no shoes ? Who were the other women being held in captivity with the main character this was not made so clear in the film ?

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