Berlin: Agnieszka Holland Says She Fears German Nostalgia for Adolf Hitler

Mr. Jones-Publicity Still-H 2019
Courtesy of Berlinale

The Polish director made the comments about the former German dictator while touting her Stalin-era drama 'Mr. Jones' at the Berlin Film Festival.

Oscar-nominated director Agnieszka Holland (In Darkness) on Sunday, after expressing puzzlement over Russian nostalgia for the Soviet past and Josef Stalin, added she feared Germany may similarly grow wistful about former Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

"I'm afraid about if we come to the moment when the German nation will consider that Adolf Hitler was one of the greatest German leaders," Holland said during a politically charged press conference at the Berlin Film Festival.

The Polish director was in Berlin to talk about Mr. Jones, her drama about Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, whose Stalin-era truth-telling about the 1930s famine in the Ukraine is said to have inspired George Orwell's classic dystopian novel Animal Farm. As Holland discussed what she sees as the overlooked history of the Holodomor, or the Soviet-era famine in the Ukraine, as preventing peace today between Vladimir Putin's Russia and the Ukrainian people, her thoughts then turned to current Russian nostalgia for the Stalin era.

"It's tragic. It shows some enslavement of the mind and the soul," the Europa, Europa director said. Holland, recalling recent media reports she had come across, also pointed to "rich British people" who she claimed financed the Brexit campaign for Britain to leave the European Community, and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon having apparently been bankrolled by wealthy backers to encourage the European far right.

"The only thing we can do is have a free and courageous media," Holland insisted as she brought the conversation back to the subject of her film who, despite a backlash, insisted on revealing the truth about the 1930s Ukrainian famine.

James Norton, who plays Jones in the film, seconded Holland's support for a free media.

"Gareth was a good soul. In the beginning of his life, he knew what he wanted to achieve, and he paid a big price to achieve that," Norton recalled.

Mr. Jones co-star Peter Sarsgaard was as passionate as Norton and Holland in his support for journalists as truth-tellers. "They're the spearhead," Sarsgaard said at the Berlin presser. 

The Berlin Film Festival continues through Feb. 17.