'Reunion' a chilling date with the past

On movies

April 30, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

INITIALLY, ''Reunion'' seems much too poetic for its subject matter. That, however, was the aim of the producers, who wanted to do a pre-Holocaust film that explored the understandable complacency of some German Jews when Hitler

was rising to power. ''They'll never fall for this rubbish,'' says one man, referring to the Germans.

The producers also wanted to contrast the physical beauty of Germany with the nation's acceptance of a monstrous leader. They have achieved both objectives. ''Reunion'' is the frequently chilling story of a country whose charming topography was in sharp contrast to the ugliness of some of its citizens.

This is some of the same ground covered by other plays and movies, ''Cabaret,'' to name one. ''Reunion,'' in fact, is very much like ''Cabaret.'' In both, Nazism slowly engulfs the nation, and when control is complete, the real nightmare begins.

''Reunion'' begins with Jason Robards, an American businessman, planning to travel to Germany where he hopes to visit the graves of his parents.

Robards, however, is in very little of the film. Most of it is flashback, a return to 1932 when Henry (Robards), as a schoolboy called Hans, becomes friendly with a young man who belongs to one of the area's ruling families.

Their association continues even when Konradin, Hans' friend, says he believes, as Hitler does, that the Jews are a problem, one that will eventually be ''solved.''

When Henry returns to Germany 52 years after his departure, he makes inquiries. He would like to know what happened to the boy who was once his friend. Konradin's mother is still alive, but she will tell Henry nothing, so Henry goes to the school principal and asks him if he knows what happened to Konradin.

The ending is almost O. Henry, or would be if this were not so

serious a backdrop.

''Reunion,'' directed by Jerry Schatzberg (''The Seduction of Joe Tynan''), is a French-German co-production. It was first released in 1989. It has taken a while to reach this area. It is not a particularly pleasant film, but it makes its point.

''Reunion'' is based on a book written by Fred Uhlman. Harold Pinter did the script, perhaps his most linear. ''Reunion'' is miles removed from the kind of thing Pinter did when his career was new.

''Reunion'' is playing at the Golden Ring Mall Cinemas.


** An American businessman returns to Germany to visit the graves of his parents and to inquire about the friend he had as a schoolboy.

DIRECTOR: Jerry Schatzberg

RATING: PG-13 (sex, nudity)

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

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